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Mod Pathol. 2005 Aug;18(8):1134-44.

Duodenal intraepithelial lymphocytosis with normal villous architecture: common occurrence in H. pylori gastritis.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY 10032, USA.


We have observed expansions of intraepithelial lymphocytes in duodenal biopsies from patients with Helicobacter pylori gastritis. This study was undertaken to prospectively evaluate, unselected, paired gastric and duodenal biopsies from 50 patients with H. pylori gastritis and a comparison group of 30 patients with other types of gastritis (10 autoimmune and 20 reactive) to: (1) quantify duodenal intraepithelial lymphocytes, determine their distribution patterns, epithelial location, and phenotype, and (2) correlate the intraepithelial lymphocyte elevations with various features of gastric and duodenal pathology. Intraepithelial lymphocytes were analyzed with antibodies including CD3, CD8, and TIA-1. A stain for H. pylori was performed on all gastric and duodenal biopsies. Duodenal intraepithelial lymphocytes from patients with H. pylori gastritis (using CD3) ranged from 3 to 42 lymphocytes/100 epithelial cells (mean 18.5) compared to 3 to 18 lymphocytes/100 epithelial cells (mean 6.6) in the comparison group. Intraepithelial lymphocyte elevations were seen in 44% of the duodenal biopsies from patients with H. pylori gastritis (using CD3). Significant differences in the intraepithelial lymphocyte counts between patients with H. pylori gastritis and the comparison group were seen for all three T-cell antigens (P<0.001 for CD3 and CD8 and P<0.002 for TIA-1). Duodenal intraepithelial lymphocytes in the H. pylori+ cases had a latent cytotoxic phenotype, H. pylori was not visualized in any of the duodenal biopsies from patients with H. pylori gastritis, and no patient had clinical evidence of celiac disease. Our study highlights frequent duodenal intraepithelial lymphocytosis in individuals with H. pylori gastritis and the lymphocyte distribution patterns (and numbers) overlapped with those described for celiac disease patients. H. pylori gastritis must be considered as a possible explanation for duodenal intraepithelial lymphocytosis with normal villous architecture, especially when lymphocytosis is patchy, intraepithelial lymphocytes display a 'latent' cytotoxic phenotype, and the clinical findings and serologic profile does not fit celiac disease.

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