The study was designed to investigate the prevalence of celiac disease (CD) among 2.5-year-old children in a Swedish urban population with a high incidence of CD.
Six hundred ninety apparently healthy children, born in the 12-month period of July 1992 through June 1993, were screened for immunoglobulin A (IgA) antigliadin antibodies and IgA antiendomysium antibodies, and those antibody-positive at repeated testing were further investigated with intestinal biopsy.
Of the 690 children, 6 were both IgA antigliadin antibody- and IgA antiendomysium antibody-positive, and 7 were antiendomysium antibody-positive but antigliadin antibody-negative. Jejunal biopsy, performed in 12 cases, manifested partial or total villous atrophy in 8 cases. Thus, together with an additional child whose parents declined the offered biopsy, but whose response to a gluten-free diet confirmed the presence of CD, the prevalence of CD in the study series was 1.3% (9/690; 95% confidence interval: .4–2.2). However, independent of the study, an additional 22 cases of symptomatic, biopsy-verified CD have already been detected in the birth cohort of 3004 children.
The prevalence of CD in our study series was high, at least 1.0%, but may be as high as 2.0% if the frequency of silent CD is as high as we have found in the remaining unscreened cohort. These findings confirm that CD is one of the most common chronic disorders.