To investigate the clinical significance of the determination of IgA antibodies to tissue transglutaminase (tTG) for the detection of silent coeliac disease in patients with Type 1 diabetes mellitus.
A total of 520 patients with diabetes (median age 14.2 years, range 1-27) were tested for IgA antibodies to tTG (IgA anti-tTG, ELISA), endomysium (EmA, indirect immunofluoresence) and gliadin (IgA-AGA, enzyme immunometric assay) after ruling out IgA deficiency.
The prevalence of IgA anti-tTG among patients with diabetes was 4.4% (23 of 520), and that of EmA and IgA-AGA 3.5% (18 of 520, respectively). The coefficient of agreement between IgA anti-tTG and EmA was high (Cohen's kappa = 0.87, P < 0.001). Thirteen of the 23 IgA anti-tTG-positive patients underwent duodenal biopsy. Coeliac disease was confirmed in nine of 13 patients. One of them was negative for EmA and AGA, but positive for IgA anti-tTG. Retrospective annual determinations up to 8 years in six IgA anti-tTG-positive patients showed both permanent and transient elevations of the serological markers.
These data show that a positive IgA antibody test to tTG is a more sensitive parameter than EmA for silent coeliac disease in patients with diabetes. Confirmatory small bowel biopsy, however, remains necessary for diagnosis as some patients with positive antibodies may be without histological changes.