Celiac.com 06/13/2011 - Serological screening of asymptomatic people at risk for celiac disease is an effective method for spotting the disease and prompting early treatment, according to the results of a study by researchers from Finland, presented at Digestive Disease Week 2011.

The study team showed that diagnosing and treating celiac disease in its earliest stages is beneficial in most screen-detected asymptomatic patients.

Most of the patients the team studied were willing to continue on a gluten-free diet. On that basis, they assert that it is reasonable to screen at-risk groups.

Lead author Kalle Kurppa, MD, from the University of Tampere in Finland noted that about 2% of the population has celiac disease, but that 90% of affected persons are never formally diagnosed.

"Screening for celiac disease is problematic, and treatment is difficult. It is also unclear whether early diagnosis and treatment of screen-detected celiac disease is truly beneficial," Dr. Kurppa said.

The study team set out to assess the benefit of adopting a gluten-free diet in asymptomatic adults with positive endomysial antibody (EmA) serological screens.

For the study, the team recruited 3031 relatives of patients with celiac disease.  Of these, 148 showed positive EmA scans. 40 of these patients agreed to be randomly assigned to continue their gluten-containing diets (n = 20) , or to start a gluten-free diet (n = 20).

In addition to screening for EmA testing, the study team tested for transglutaminase 2 antibodies, and surveyed patients using the Gastrointestinal Symptoms Rating Scale and Psychological General Well-Being instrument.

The team evaluated laboratory parameters, celiac-specific genetics, bone mineral density, and body composition, along with small bowel