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Celiac Disease Highly Prevalent at Birth--Detectable by 2-3 Years of Age

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2004 Jul;39(1):80-84

Celiac.com 04/10/2005 - A study by Spanish researchers has found that celiac disease is highly prevalent among Spanish children—at least 1 in 118 of them are born with it. The study looked at 830 healthy children born between October 1998 and December 1999 whose parents had enrolled them in an early diagnosis program. Of the 830 children who initially enrolled, 613 were screened for anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies at 1.5 years of age, and 484 were screened at 2.5 years of age. At 1.5 years none of the children screened positive for the antibodies, but by 2.5 years 9 tested positive, and 7 of those 9 also had positive follow-up intestinal biopsies.

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The researchers conclude that at least 1 in 118 Spanish children are born with celiac disease, which is comparable to that found in other European populations—but the incidence determined in this study might actually have been higher had all of the children who participated in the initial 1.5 year old screening returned a year later for the second screening. The authors stop short of making a recommendation for a general screening of all Spanish children for celiac disease, and instead define the best timing for such a screening: 2-3 years of age.

This study indirectly highlights just how many celiac disease diagnoses are missed--most people with celiac disease are still never diagnosed and must live with the disease and its associated problems for life. Those who finally get a diagnosis often spend years suffering before it is figured out. Many get lymphoma and die--which is why we must continue to advocate for celiac disease screenings for the general population--perhaps starting as early as 2-3 years of age.

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