Thirty-two children with a past diagnosis of coeliac disease were reinvestigated by means of gluten challenge. They had received a gluten-free diet for a mean period of 6-5 years (range 0-25-11-0) before gluten challenge, and had a mean age of 9-9 years (range 3-0-15-3) at the onset of challenge. Small intestinal biopsies were performed before and after the gluten challenge (at least 10 g natural gluten per day for 3 months in the majority) and, as judged by light microscopy and morphometric techniques, coeliac disease was confirmed in 25 (78%) of the 32 patients; challenge was continued in the remaining 7 for a total period of 2 years when biopsies were repeated in 6 children and all were normal. Serum and RBC folate, serum iron, Hb level, and clinical symptoms were unpredictable variables in identifying children who developed gluten-induced enteropathies. The social and emotional effects of gluten challenge are discussed. The results highlight the importance of gluten challenge and intestinal biopsy in the diagnosis of coeliac disease and strongly suggest that a normal biopsy after a 3-month gluten challenge (as described above) excludes coeliac disease.
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