Laboratory Methods for Diagnosing Celiac Disease

Vijay Kumar, PhD, FACB

Laboratory Methods for Diagnosing Celiac Disease

January 2010


Celiac disease (CD) is an autoimmune gastrointestinal disorder that may occur in genetically susceptible individuals, triggered by the ingestion of gluten-containing grains such as wheat, barley and rye. CD represents one of the few disorders where the etiological agent is known and the disease subsides and goes in remission once the etiological agent is withdrawn from the diet.

CD is characterized by malabsorption resulting from inflammatory injury to the small intestinal mucosa and, when prolonged, can cause malnutrition. The classical symptoms of CD include diarrhea, weight loss and malnutrition, but only a small percentage of patients presents with classical symptoms. Consequently, the clinical spectrum of CD has grown much broader than in the past to include patients who do not present with classical symptoms. It is not uncommon for the initial symptoms to be non-gastrointestinal or for gastrointestinal symptoms, if present, to be mild or intermittent.

Failure to diagnose CD early on may predispose an individual to long-term complications such as splenic atrophy and intestinal lymphoma. In a recent study, CD is associated with significantly elevated risk for intestinal lymphoma, especially for non-Hodgkin's. A gluten-free diet normalizes the mucosa and helps reduce the malignant potential. The advent of serological methods for the detection of antibodies to gliadin, endomysium, and tissue transglutaminase have recently enabled large-scale screening for CD.



Dr. Kumar received his PhD in biochemistry followed by fellowship in clinical immunology. He is a

Dr. Kuma

r is currently Chairman of the Board and Chief Scientific Officer at IMMCO Diagnostics in Buffalo, NY, and is also Research Associate Professor at the University of Buffalo (SUNY) in three departments: Microbiology and Immunology, Dermatology, and Laboratory Sciences. He has identified a new immunological marker (endomysial antibody) for the diagnosis of celiac disease, and holds a patent covering this research. Dr. Kumar has authored over 100 original publications in various journals with a focus on clinical and diagnostic immunology, as well as two books

He has been actively involved in AACC’s Clinical and Diagnostic Immunology Division for many years, having served on its Education Committee, and is a two-time recipient of the association’s Outstanding Speaker Award. In addition, Dr. Kumar collaborates with national and international scientific groups on the cutting edge of clinical and diagnostic immunology.

Diplomate of the American Board of Medical Immunology, the American Board of Medical Microbiology, and is a Clinical Chemist member of the National Registry of Certified Chemists.

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If you are interested in learning more about lab testing for celiac disease, CLICK HERE for information about the January 20 AACC audioconference titled “Celiac Disease: Advances in Testing and Treatment."