The close association between coeliac disease and autoimmunity prompted us to perform an antibody screening for gluten-sensitive enteropathy in patients with autoimmune thyroid dysfunction.
Sera from 220 patients with autoimmune thyroiditis, 50 euthyroid subjects with thyroid nodules and 250 blood donors were tested for IgA anti-tissue transglutaminase (anti-tTG) and antiendomysial antibodies (EmA).
IgA anti-tTG was positive in 7 patients with autoimmune thyroiditis, whereas IgA EmA was found only in 6 of them. Duodenal biopsy confirmed coeliac disease diagnosis disclosing marked and mild villous atrophy in 6 and 1 of them, respectively. All but 2 of the 7 coeliacs did not show any sign of malabsorption. All euthyroid controls were negative for IgA antibodies, whereas 1 blood donor, positive for both IgA anti-tTG and EmA, was found to be coeliac. The prevalence of coeliac disease in patients with autoimmune thyroiditis (3.2%) was significantly higher than that found in blood donors (0.4%) (p = 0.022, Fisher's exact test).
Antibody screening for coeliac disease should be included in the work-up of patients with autoimmune thyroiditis. Either IgA anti-tTG or EmA may be used, even though the former seems to be slightly more sensitive than the latter.