Fifty-four infants with the malabsorption syndrome and cow's milk intolerence seen during 1962-1971 were investigated. All had diarrhoea and failed to thrive. Most had vomiting and about 20% had atopic eczema and recurrent respiratory infections. Laboratory investigations revealed malabsorption, raised serum IgA, and precipitins to cow's milk. Biopsies showed that the jejunal mucosa was damaged, and in about half the cases was flat. The patient did well on human milk but reacted clinically to cow's milk challenge, either in a few hours or gradually during 3-4 weeks. Some patients showed first a quick, but later a slow, reaction. Clinical symptoms of cow's milk intolerance disappeared at the age of about one year. At that time 81% had normal faecal fat, but only 29% had a normal proximal jejunal mucosa. Many of the patients developed intolerances to other food proteins, such as soya and wheat, if these were given during the sensitive period. Forty-two patients have been followed up for 2 years on a normal gluten-containing diet. Of these, 37 have a normal or nearly normal jejunal mucosa and 5 (12%) have subtotal villous atrophy indicative of coeliac disease. It is concluded that the malabsorption syndrome with cow's milk intolerance is a clear-cut clinical entity. However, the symptomatology, results of laboratory tests, and jejunal biopsy findings closely resemble those of other entities where damage to the intestinal mucosa causes a malabsorption snydrome. Follow-up studies showed that the disease is transient, but about 10% of the patients have coeliac disease, regarded in such cases as the primary disorder.
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