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J Pediatr. 2012 Nov;161(5):908-14. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2012.05.008. Epub 2012 Jun 15.

Prevalence and natural history of potential celiac disease in at-family-risk infants prospectively investigated from birth.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Catania, Italy.



To evaluate the frequency and the natural history of potential (serology positive/Marsh 0-1 histology) celiac disease (CD) in children with a family risk of CD and factors associated with potential instead of overt (serology positive/Marsh 2-3 histology) CD expression.


Two-year follow-up study of 96 children (57 females; mean age: 29 ± 12 months) prospectively investigated from birth with: (1) a CD-affected first-degree relative; (2) positivity of serum IgA anti-tissue transglutaminase (tTG) or IgG antigliadin and IgA deficiency; and (3) the results of small intestinal biopsy. Children with potential CD were advised to remain on a gluten containing diet, repeat the celiac antibodies every 6 months, and to have an intestinal biopsy performed in case of persistently high anti-tTG level. Factors discriminating between potential and overt CD were analyzed by decision tree analysis based on the C4.5 algorithm.


Twenty-four children had potential and 72 overt CD. The stronger predictors of potential CD were lack of symptoms, anti-tTG level lower than 11-fold the upper normal limit, age lower than 24 months, and breastfeeding longer than 8 months. Eighteen out of 21 (86%) patients with potential CD continuing a gluten-containing diet became antibody negative, 1/21 (5%) developed overt CD, and 2/21 (9%) had fluctuating antibodies levels after 2 years.


The prevalence of potential CD and the percentage of short-term loss of CD-related-antibodies are high in infants at-family-risk for CD. In symptomless children with a positive celiac serology, the decision of performing an intestinal biopsy should be preceded by a period of repeated serological testing.

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