To investigate clinical features of celiac disease (CD) and their association with risk factors for CD in a genetic risk birth cohort.
Children from 6 clinical centers in 4 countries positive for HLA-DR3-DQ2 or DR4-DQ8 were annually screened for tissue transglutaminase antibodies (tTGA) and assessed for symptoms by questionnaires. Associations of symptoms with anthropometrics, known risk factors for CD, tTGA levels, and mucosal lesions in those biopsied were examined.
Of 6706 screened children, 914 developed persistent positive tTGA, 406 underwent biopsies, and 340 had CD. Compared with age-matched tTGA-negative children, those with persistent tTGA were more likely to have symptoms at 2 (34% vs 19%, P < .001) and 3 years of age (28% vs 19%, P = .009) but not at 4 years (27% vs 21%, NS). Z-scores for height, weight, and BMI did not differ between groups. In children with persistent tTGA, having ≥1 symptom was associated with family history of CD (odds ratio = 2.59, 95% confidence interval, 1.21–5.57) but not with age, gender, or HLA-DR3-DQ2 homozygosity. At seroconversion, tTGA levels were higher in symptomatic than asymptomatic children (P < .001), in those from CD families (P < .001), and in US participants (P < .001) but not associated with age, gender, or HLA genotype. tTGA levels correlated with severity of mucosal lesions both in symptomatic (r = 0.53, P < .001) and asymptomatic children (r = 0.22, P = .01).
A majority of children detected with persistent tTGA in screenings are asymptomatic and have normal growth by age 4 years. tTGA levels correlate more strongly with severity of mucosal lesions in symptomatic as compared with asymptomatic children.