Late diagnosis of celiac disease in an asymptomatic infant with growth failure

Mauro Bozzola, Elena Bozzola, Sara Pagani, Amelia Mascolo, Rossella Porto, Cristina Meazza

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The clinical spectrum for celiac disease (CD) is broad and includes cases with either typical (intestinal) or atypical (extraintestinal) features, often making the diagnosis of CD very difficult. We describe the case of a girl presenting with stunted growth and malnourishment. She was evaluated at 14 months for decreased growth rate without any signs of gastrointestinal, renal or endocrine disorders. She was evaluated for CD, but resulted negative for anti-tTG antibodies. At the age of 4.1 years, she exhibited basal dental enamel hypoplasia, iron deficiency anaemia despite repeated iron supplementation, with persistent reduced height (-2.79 SDS), BMI (-0.76 SDS), growth velocity (-1.79 SDS) and delayed bone age (1.5 year). The CD screening was repeated and very high anti-tTG-IgA (128 IU/ml, normal values <7 IU/ml) and anti-tTG-IgG (77 IU/ml, normal values <7 IU/ml) values were found. HLA genotyping revealed an HLA DQ2 haplotype. A duodenal biopsy revealed severe villous atrophy with crypt hyperplasia and increased intraepithelial lymphocytes (> 40 IELs/100 epithelial cells) confirming the diagnosis of CD. A gluten-free diet was started and after only four months, her growth velocity increased from 4.83 cm/year (-1.79 SDS) to 6.53 cm/year (-0.15 SDS). In conclusion, we report the development of a positive serology for CD in an asymptomatic child with growth retardation, who previously was investigated for CD and resulted negative. Therefore, when faced with retarded growth in young patients, after excluding other malabsorption conditions and even when CD serological markers are negative, the paediatric endocrinologist should request HLA genotyping, before the intestinal biopsy, in order to check for the presence of risk alleles.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
JournalItalian Journal of Pediatrics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 15 2014


  • Celiac disease
  • HLA
  • Malnourishment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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