Celiac disease and human leukocyte antigen genotype: Accuracy of diagnosis in self-diagnosed individuals, dosage effect, and sibling risk

Cathryn Lewis, Linda Book, Jeff Black, Allen Sawitzke, Lisa Cannon-Albright, John Zone, Susan Neuhausen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background: Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine characterized by intolerance to gluten. Traditionally, diagnosis is made by intestinal biopsy. Testing for immunoglobulin (Ig) A endomysial antibodies in the serum also is used for diagnosis. Biopsy and serology revert to normal with adherence to a gluten-free diet. Often, after an index case is diagnosed, siblings with symptoms adhere to a gluten-free diet without biopsy or serologic confirmation. More than 90% of patients with Celiac disease have the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) DQA1*0501-DQB1*0201 genotype. Non-HLA genes also have been implicated. Methods: One hundred ninety-five individuals with confirmed or suspected celiac disease were identified in 73 families affected by the disease. IgA endomysial antibody testing was performed for all symptomatic family members who did not have biopsy-confirmed diagnoses. DNA samples were genotyped at D6S276 and the HLA class II loci DQA and DQB. Results: At the time sampling was begun in families, 88 of 177 (49.7%) individuals were self-diagnosed and adhering to a gluten-free diet. Ninety percent (91/101) of confirmed cases (biopsy or serology) had at least 1 copy of the DQA1*0501-DQB1*0201 genotype, whereas only 67% (46/69) of cases self-diagnosed (adherence to gluten-free diet without confirmation) had at least 1 copy. Of confirmed cases, 61% carried two copies of DQB*0201. It is estimated that the HLA association and other unlinked genes contribute approximately equally to the sibling risk of celiac disease. Conclusions: A dosage effect of DQB1*0201 may be associated with an increased risk of celiac disease. Self-diagnosis of celiac disease is as common as confirmed diagnosis in families in the United States. Diagnosis of celiac disease on the basis of clinical response to gluten restriction is inaccurate. With longterm adherence to a gluten-free diet, serologic test results are likely to be negative. Based on HLA genotype, approximately one third of self-diagnosed individuals are unlikely to have celiac disease. However, it is not possible to determine which individuals consuming a gluten-free diet have the disease. Therefore, before starting a gluten-free diet, serologic screening and biopsy confirmation are necessary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-27
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Celiac disease
  • DQ2
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis
  • Genetics
  • Gluten-sensitive enteropathy
  • HLA genotypes


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