OBJECTIVE: Tissue transglutaminase is the antigen for antiendomysial antibodies, whose power in screening for celiac disease is well known. Our aim was to assess the efficacy of an ELISA assay for tissue transglutaminase antibodies. METHODS: Tissue transglutaminase antibodies were analyzed in serum from 39 untreated celiac disease patients and 61 controls. Tissue transglutaminase was used as antigen, and test sera analyzed by ELISA. Results higher than 0.6 optical density were considered positive, lower than 0.4 negative, and between 0.4 and 0.6 borderline. RESULTS: Optical density of the serum from the patients with untreated celiac disease (median: 1.41; range: 0.331.47) were significantly higher than the controls (median: 0.32; range: 0.17-0.68; p <0.0001; 95% confidence interval 0.87-1.08). Thirty- three patients with untreated celiac disease were positive, 4 borderline, and 2 negative. Fifty-five controls were negative, 4 borderline, and 2 positive. If we consider borderline results to be positive, sensitivity is 94.8% and specificity 90.1%. None of the controls gave results higher than 0.7 optical density. Apart from the 2 negative patients with untreated celiac disease, the two groups overlapped only between 0.4 and 0.7 optical density. CONCLUSIONS: Because of the high sensitivity (≃95%) and technical simplicity, tissue transglutaminase antibodies may prove useful for the screening of celiac disease in population at low or medium risk of celiac disease. To avoid duodenal biopsies in patients without celiac disease, the specificity of the screening procedure may be increased by confirming with antiendomysial antibodies by immunofluorescence on human umbilical cord in individuals with results between 0.4 and 0.7 optical density.
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