Previous studies have demonstrated that the presence of serum IgA antibodies against actin filaments (AAA) in patients with celiac disease (CD) is strongly associated with mucosal damage and severe degrees of villous atrophy.
The aims of the present study were (1) to verify the effectiveness of IgA-AAA in newly diagnosed CD patients in a clinical setting (2) to compare the immunofluorescence assay with ELISA assay; (3) to compare the correlation of our IgA anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies (tTG-Ab) class with mucosal intestinal lesions.
90 patients underwent endoscopy and multiple biopsies for suspected CD on the basis of symptoms, in presence of positive tTG-Ab tests. Twenty biopsied and 25 not-biopsied subjects with negative tTG-Ab were tested as control groups.
IgA-AAA assays were performed by indirect immunofluorescence using rat epithelial intestinal cells, and by ELISA with a commercial kit. tTG-Ab assay was a radio-binding assay.
Intestinal specimens were collected by upper endoscopy and the histological study was done according to the Marsh's classification modified by Oberhuber (M/O). Auto-antibodies assays and histological evaluation have been performed blindly by skilled operators.
CD diagnosis was confirmed in 82 patients (type I M/O in 2 patients, IIIA in 18 patients, IIIB in 29 patients and IIIC in 33 patients). Two patients with type 1 lesion in presence of positive tTG-Ab and abdominal complaints, started a gluten free diet.
The rate of IgA-AAA positivity (sensitivity) by IFI and ELISA in histologically proven celiac disease patients, were 5.5% and 25% patients in IIIA, 27.5% and 34.4% patients in IIIB, 78.8% and 75% in IIIC patients, respectively.
Patients with normal or nearly normal mucosa, regardless of tTG-Ab status, presented negative IgA-AAA IFI assay. On the other hand, 1 patient with normal mucosa but positive tTG-Ab, also presented positive IgA-AAA ELISA. All healthy non biopsied controls had negative IgA-AAA. tTG-Ab serum concentration was significantly correlated with more severe intestinal lesion (IIIB, IIIC M/O).
IgA-AAA may be undetectable in presence of severe mucosal damage. Histology is still necessary to diagnose celiac disease and IgA-AAA cannot be included in usual screening tests, because it has little to offer if compared to the well-established tTG-Ab.
IgA-AAA could be an adjunctive, very useful tool to support the diagnosis of CD in case of suboptimal histology, when the biopsy is to be avoided for clinical reasons, or in case of negative parents' consensus.