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Dig Liver Dis. 2011 Oct;43(10):772-8. doi: 10.1016/j.dld.2011.04.025. Epub 2011 Jun 8.

Persistently positive gliadin antibodies without transglutaminase antibodies in the elderly: gluten intolerance beyond coeliac disease.

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Department of Neurology, Päijät-Häme Central Hospital in Lahti, Finland.



The specificity of the conventional gliadin antibody test is considered low.


We explored whether gliadin antibody(AGA)-positivity without tissue transglutaminase antibodies (tTGA) is persistent in the elderly population and whether such positivity indicates overt or potential coeliac disease in genetically predisposed individuals.


AGA and tissue transglutaminase antibody were measured in 2089 elderly individuals twice with a three-year interval. AGA-positive but tissue transglutaminase antibody-negative subjects with coeliac-type human leucocyte antigen (HLA) were examined and underwent gastroduodenal endoscopy (cases). Small-bowel mucosal villous morphology and densities of CD3+ and γδ+ intraepithelial lymphocytes and the occurrence of tissue transglutaminase-specific IgA deposits were analysed. Randomly selected persistently AGA-negative age- and sex-matched subjects served as controls.


AGA-positivity was persistent in 81% of those initially positive. Amongst the 49 clinically studied and 36 endoscopied cases only one (2.8%) had coeliac disease. Many (54%) showed signs of inflammation in the biopsy, without villous atrophy. Coeliac-type HLA was not over-represented in the persistently AGA-positive compared to the general population. Persistently AGA-positive coeliac-type HLA-positive subjects had more gastrointestinal symptoms than AGA-negative controls.


AGA-positivity is often persistent. Overt coeliac disease is seldom found behind persistent AGA-positivity, but this characteristic is associated with mucosal inflammation and gastrointestinal symptoms at least in HLA-positive individuals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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