Screening Detects a High Proportion of Celiac Disease in Young HLA-genotyped Children

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Background and Aims:

Celiac disease is associated with tissue transglutaminase autoantibodies (tTGAb) and the human leukocyte antigen (HLA)–risk alleles DQB1*02 and DQB1*0302. The aim was to estimate the proportion of undiagnosed celiac disease in children with HLA risk at 3 years of age.

Patients and Methods:

From a population-based HLA-DQ screening study of newborns born between June 2001 and August 2004 in the southern part of Sweden, 6206 children with HLA-risk alleles were identified and asked to participate at a mean 3.3 ± 0.4 years of age. As controls, 7654 children with HLA-nonrisk alleles were asked to participate. In all, 1620 (26.1%) children with HLA risk and 1815 (23.7%) controls were screened for tTGAb using radioligand-binding assays. Celiac disease was established by intestinal biopsy in children with a confirmed positive tTGAb test.


Twenty-three children reported already having clinically diagnosed celiac disease and did not participate further. In children with HLA-risk genotypes, 73 of 1620 (4.5%, 95% CI 3.5%–5.5%) were tTGAb-positive compared with none of 1815 from the controls (P < 0.0001). Seventy-one children underwent biopsy (1 refused biopsy and 1 biopsy failed), of whom 56 of 1618 (3.5%, 95% CI 2.6%–4.4%) had damaged intestinal mucosa classified as celiac disease. The ratio between clinically and screening detected celiac disease in this study was 1:2.4 (23:56).


The proportion of clinically undetected celiac disease may be particularly high among 3-year-old children with HLA-DQB1*02 and DQB1*0302 in Sweden, where these 2 HLA-risk alleles frequently occur.

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