Assessing Possible Celiac Disease by an HLA-DQ2-gliadin Tetramer Test

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OBJECTIVES:Investigation of uncertain celiac disease (CD) in patients already on a gluten-free diet (GFD) is difficult. We evaluated HLA-DQ2-gliadin tetramers for detection of gluten-specific T cells in peripheral blood and histological changes in the duodenum after a short gluten challenge as a diagnostic tool.METHODS:HLA-DQ2+ individuals on a GFD for at least 4 weeks were investigated; 35 with uncertain diagnosis, 13 CD patients, and 2 disease controls. All participants had a challenge with four slices of gluten-containing white bread, daily for 3 days (d1–d3). An esophagogastroduodenoscopy with biopsy sampling was done on d0 and d4. Biopsies were scored according to revised Marsh criteria. Peripheral blood CD4+ T cells were isolated, stained with HLA-DQ2-gliadin peptide tetramers, and analyzed by flow cytometry on d0 and d6.RESULTS:After challenge, a positive tetramer test was seen in 11/13 CD patients. Four of these subjects also showed typical histological changes on challenge. Of the 35 patients with uncertain diagnosis, 3 were diagnosed with CD. Two of these three patients had both positive tetramer staining and histological changes in biopsies after challenge.CONCLUSIONS:Tetramer staining for gluten-specific T cells is a sensitive method in detecting an immune response in CD patients after a short gluten challenge. The prevalence of CD in the group with self-prescribed GFD was about 10%.

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