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Screening for coeliac disease using anti-tissue transglutaminase antibody assays, and prevalence of the disease in an Australian community

Chin, M.W., Mallon, D.F., Cullen, D.J., Olynyk, J.K., Mollison, L.C. and Pearce, C.B. (2009) Screening for coeliac disease using anti-tissue transglutaminase antibody assays, and prevalence of the disease in an Australian community. Medical Journal of Australia, 190 (8). pp. 429-432.

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Objectives: To determine (i) the prevalence of positive results of anti-tissue transglutaminase (anti-tTG) antibody assays and coeliac disease (CD) in a rural Australian community; and (ii) whether confirmatory testing of a positive assay result with an alternative anti-tTG assay improved the positive predictive value of the test in population screening for CD.

Design: Retrospective analysis in December 2004 of stored serum samples taken in 1994–1995 from 3011 subjects in the Busselton Health Study follow-up. Assays for IgA and IgG anti-tTG antibodies were performed, and positive or equivocal samples were retested with a different commercial anti-tTG assay. Available subjects with one or more positive assay results were interviewed, had serum collected for repeat anti-tTG assays and for HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 haplotyping and, if appropriate, gastroscopy and duodenal biopsy were performed. In unavailable subjects, HLA-DQ2 and -DQ8 haplotyping was performed on stored sera. Total serum IgA levels were assessed in subjects with initially negative assay results.

Main outcome measure: Prevalence of anti-tTG positivity and biopsy-proven CD.

Results: In 47 of 3011 serum samples (1.56%), at least one anti-tTG assay gave positive results: 31 of the subjects who provided these sera were available for clinical review, and 21 were able to have a gastroscopy. Seventeen subjects (0.56%) were diagnosed with definite CD (14 were confirmed at gastroscopy, and three unavailable subjects had three positive results of anti-tTG assays and an HLA haplotype consistent with CD); in a further 12 unavailable subjects, CD status was considered equivocal, with one or more positive anti-tTG assay results and an HLA haplotype consistent with CD. If these subjects were regarded as having CD, the prevalence of CD would be 0.96%. The positive predictive value when all three anti-tTG assays gave positive results was 94%, but fell to 45.2% with only one positive result.

Conclusions: The prevalence of anti-tTG antibodies in this population is 1.56%; the prevalence of CD is at least 0.56%. The utility of a single, positive result of an anti-tTG assay in screening for CD in the community is poor, and repeat and/or collateral assessment with different assays may decrease the need for gastroscopy and distal duodenal biopsy.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Australasian Medical Publishing Company
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