Tag Archives: celiac screening children

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Which Children Should Be Tested For Celiac Disease?

This is a question that seems to come up again and again. I have personally struggled with figuring this out over the last few years as well, so I have read as much as I can about the topic of screening during childhood.

Earlier today I read a Medscape article titled “Celiac Disease: Which Children Should be Tested?” which was written by Lara C. Pullen PhD, and published online on March 23, 2015. In this article, Dr. Pullan does a great job of summarizing the current evidence and opinions about which groups of children should be screened/tested for celiac disease, and emphasizes that this is important because many children with celiac disease do not have symptoms.

For the most part, experts agree that children with risk factors for celiac disease, including those with a first degree relative (sibling and/or parent) with celiac, Down Syndrome, Turner Syndrome, William’s Syndrome, type 1 diabetes, and other autoimmune diseases, such as autoimmune thyroid disease, should be tested for celiac disease.  Likewise, children with overt symptoms of celiac, including recurrent abdominal pain, diarrhea, abdominal distension, and poor growth, should also be tested.

Dr. Rita Verma, a pediatric gastroenterologist from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, is quoted several times throughout the article. Although Dr. Verma would prefer that ALL children be screened for celiac disease, she emphasizes that it is important for pediatricians to screen when they have even the slightest suspicion that celiac disease may be present. She sees many children with atypical symptoms of celiac disease in her practice, and these atypical symptoms can include anemia, chronic constipation, headaches, seizures, alopecia (hair loss), tiredness, pancreatitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and unexplained elevated liver enzymes.

At the minimum, celiac antibody screening blood tests should include the following: a total immunoglobulin IgA, anti-transglutaminase (anti-TTG) and anti-endomysial IgA antibodies. A child who tests positive for both TTG and endomysial antibodies likely has celiac disease and should be referred to a pediatric gastroenterologist for further evaluation.

Dr. Verma emphasizes that a dietary history should be obtained from parents prior to celiac blood screening, as some children between ages 2 and 3 may not eat enough gluten for their tests to be positive in the presence of celiac disease.  If this is the case a “gluten challenge” may need to be performed in order to get accurate celiac testing results. Please refer to this link for recommendations on the amount and duration of gluten needed for adequate testing for celiac disease.

For more on celiac disease in children and “high risk” pediatric groups, you can refer to my previous post from January 2014 that summarizes an excellent review article by Dr. Guandalini. He is one of the world’s experts on pediatric celiac disease and is at the University of Chicago.

Out of curiosity, have any of your children been diagnosed with celiac disease after having only “atypical” symptoms? Have any been totally asymptomatic?  If so, I would love to hear your experience(s) in the comments section. Thank you in advance for your willingness to share.

Also, if you are looking for a good laugh (or maybe cry) I encourage you to create a Medscape account and actually take the time to read through comments written by medical professionals–it will make you realize that how badly celiac awareness is needed in the medical community.

 

 

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Update on Celiac Disease Screening in Infants and Toddlers

There are multiple reasons why a young child may need to be evaluated for Celiac Disease. The most obvious reason is if he or she has symptoms, such as chronic diarrhea, poor growth, and/or anemia. Other reasons include having a first degree relative (parent or sibling) who has Celiac Disease or having another autoimmune disorder, such as Type 1 diabetes.

The main blood tests to screen for Celiac Disease are tissue transglutaminase IgA (TTG IgA) antibodies and endomysial IgA (EMA IgA) antibodies. These tests are highly sensitive, which means that if the tests are negative, Celiac Disease can be ruled out most of the time. The problem with using these tests in infants and toddlers is that the sensitivity of these tests is much lower for children under the age of 2 than it is for older children and adults. Some believe that this is because young children with Celiac Disease have not had enough time to develop TTG and EMA IgA antibodies which can be measured. Needless to say, there are probably many toddlers with Celiac Disease who are walking around undiagnosed because they did not have elevated TTG and/or EMA IgA antibodies when they were tested.

Deamidated gliadin peptides (DGPs) are a new test for antibodies against gliadin and are being used with increased frequency for screening for Celiac Disease in the U.S. and Europe. A group of Italian researchers recently studied the utility of using DGP IgG antibodies to screen for Celiac Disease in children under the age of 2. They found that 100% of children under the age of 2 with biopsy-proven Celiac Disease had abnormally high DGP IgG antibodies on blood testing. They also found that DGP antibodies were abnormally high in 4 toddlers who had malabsorption (diarrhea) but who did not have a biopsy consistent with Celiac Disease. One of the 4 children with an abnormal DGP did have mild villous blunting and eventually developed Celiac Disease. The other 3 children with diarrhea and elevated DGPs all had the genes that predispose to Celiac Disease. They plan to follow these 3 children closely for the development of Celiac Disease. The researchers also found that DGP levels correlate very well with the extent of damage on the duodenal biopsies of the children with Celiac Disease and postulate that in the future, children with markedly elevated DGP antibodies may not need to be biopsied for diagnosis with Celiac Disease.

Out of curiosity, I went to the internet sites of some of the major labs that perform Celiac Disease blood screening tests. Labs which DO include DGP IgG antibodies on their celiac panels include Prometheus, Labcorp, ARUP, and Mayo Medical Labs. Labs which DO NOT include DGP IgG antibodies on their celiac panels include Kimball Genetics and Quest Diagnostics (as of 4/17/2013).

If you suspect that your young child may have Celiac Disease, but he or she did not have positive antibodies, it may be helpful to find out which lab their blood was sent to so that you can learn whether or not DGP IgG antibodies were part of the testing.  I recommend that you discuss any concerns with your child’s physician.

References:

1. Antibodies to deamidated gliadin peptides: an accurate predictor of celiac disease in infancy. Amarri, S., et al. J Clin Immunol. Published online 4/5/2013.

2. ARUP Consult. A Physician’s Guide to Laboratory Test Selection and Test Interpretation. Celiac Disease. www.arupconsult.com/assets/print/CeliacDisease.pdf.

3. Screening for celiac disease in average-risk and high-risk populations. Aggarwal, S., Lebwohl, B, and Green, P. Therap Adv Gastroenterol. Jan 2012; 5 (1): 37-47.