Conference Coverage

Celiac disease: Can biopsy be avoided?



– It may be only a matter of time before the “gold standard” small biopsy is no longer considered mandatory to make a diagnosis of celiac disease in adults, according to Joseph A. Murray, MD, consultant in the division of gastroenterology and hepatology and department of immunology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.

“Right now, none of the adult societies support biopsy avoidance, but I predict that it will come to be,” Dr. Murray said at the inaugural Perspectives in Digestive Diseases meeting held by Global Academy for Medical Education.

Biopsy, already a tarnished standard because of issues such as interpretation, according to Dr. Murray, is being challenged in studies that examine alternate ways of making the diagnosis.

In one recently reported study, investigators at Royal Derby Hospital, England, suggested that clinicians could make a reliable diagnosis of celiac disease by looking at serum IgA-tissue transglutaminase antibody levels.

Those investigators retrospectively analyzed an unselected series of 270 adult patients and found that an IgA-tissue transglutaminase antibody cut-off of 45 U/mL, or 8 times the upper limit of normal, had a positive predictive value of 100%.

Biopsy avoidance remains controversial, however. In a published letter to the editor commenting on the Derby study, authors took issue with some of the statistical analysis and remarked that the study included some patients with Marsh 1 histology.

“Studies suggest that the majority of seropositive patients with Marsh 1 histology do not progress to develop villous atrophy while on a gluten-containing diet, raising the question whether all of them are truly celiac,” they wrote.

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