Initiation of a gluten-free diet without proper diagnostic work-up of coeliac disease is a frequent and demanding problem. Recent diagnostic guidelines suggest a gluten challenge of at least 14 days followed by duodenal biopsy in such patients. The rate of false-negative outcome of this approach remains unclear. We studied responses to 14-day gluten challenge in subjects with treated coeliac disease.
We challenged 20 subjects with biopsy-verified coeliac disease, all in confirmed mucosal remission, for 14 days with 5.7 grams per oral gluten daily. Duodenal biopsies were collected. Blood was analysed by multiplex assay for cytokine detection, and by flow cytometry using HLA-DQ:gluten tetramers.
Nineteen participants completed the challenge. Villous blunting appeared at end of challenge in 5 of 19 subjects. Villous height to crypt depth ratio reduced with at least 0.4 concomitantly with an increase in intraepithelial lymphocyte count of at least 50% in 9 of 19 subjects. Interleukin-8 plasma concentration increased by more than 100% after 4 hours in 7 of 19 subjects. Frequency of blood CD4+effector-memory gut-homing HLA-DQ:gluten tetramer-binding T cells increased by more than 100% on day 6 in 12 of 15 evaluated participants.
A 14-day gluten challenge was not enough to establish significant mucosal architectural changes in majority of patients with coeliac disease (sensitivity ≈25%-50%). Increase in CD4+ effector-memory gut-homing HLA-DQ:gluten tetramer-binding T cells in blood 6 days after gluten challenge is a more sensitive and less invasive biomarker that should be validated in a larger study.
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