The prevalence of gluten-sensitive enteropathy in iron-deficient anemia patients



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Gluten sensitive enteropathy (GSE) is an autoimmune enteropathy due to food gluten intolerance in genetically predisposed people.

While GSE was thought to be a rare disease in the past and was believed to be essentially a disease of Europeans, recent screening studies showed that GSE is one of the most frequent genetically based diseases occured worldwide. Iron deficiency anemia could be a sole manifestation of GSE, and it might result in the delayed diagnosis of GSE, resulting in complications.

A research team led by Prof. Reza Malekzadeh studied the prevalence of gluten sensitive enteropathy (GSE) in a large group of patients with iron deficiency anemia (IDA) of obscure origin. Their findings will be published on December 28, 2008 in the World Journal of Gastroenterology .

In this prospective study, 4120 patients with IDA were enrolled in this study. Anti-endomysial antibody (EMA) and tissue transglutaminase antibody (tTG) levels were evaluated and duodenal biopsies were taken and scored according to the Marsh classification. The diagnosis of GSE was based on a positive serological test and abnormal duodenal histology. Gluten free diet (GFD) was advised for all the GSE patients.

Of the 4 120 IDA patients, 206 (95 male) patients were found to have IDA of obscure origin. Thirty out of 206 patients (14.6%) had GSE. Sixteen patients had Marsh 3, 12 had Marsh 2, and 2 had Marsh 1 lesions. The severity of anemia was in parallel with the severity of duodenal lesions. Twenty-two GSE patients (73.3%) had no gastrointestinal symptoms. Fourteen GSE patients who adhered to GFD without receiving iron supplementation agreed to undergo follow up visits. After 6 mo of GFD, their mean hemoglobin levels (Hb) increased from 9.9 ? 1.6 to 12.8 ? 1.0 g/dL (P < 0.01). Interestingly, in 6 out of 14 patients who had Marsh 1/2 lesions on duodenal biopsy, mean Hb increased from 11.0 ? 1.1 to 13.1 ? 1.0 g/dL (P < 0.01) while they did not receive any iron supplementation. These results indicate that there is a high prevalence of GSE in patients with IDA of obscure origin. Gluten free diet can improve anemia in GSE patients who have mild duodenal lesions without villous atrophy.

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