Reviewing the accuracy of blood tests for diagnosing coeliac disease in adults and children
Coeliac disease is caused by a reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Foods containing gluten trigger a range of symptoms in people with coeliac disease, including diarrhoea, constipation, tiredness and abdominal pain. Around 1 in 100 people in the UK have coeliac disease, although many are not diagnosed.
Current guidelines for diagnosis recommend that patients have a blood test to measure the levels of specific antibodies (proteins the body produces to fight disease) present in the blood. This is followed, if appropriate, by further blood or genetic testing, or taking a sample – a ‘biopsy’– of the small intestine. This is distressing, particularly for children, who must have a general anaesthetic to undergo the procedure.
While a large number of studies on the accuracy of these tests have been done, their results have not been combined using appropriate methods in the past.
We aim to review the existing studies on the accuracy of antibody and genetic testing for coeliac disease in both adults and children.
Having clear evidence on the accuracy of these tests will ensure they are used appropriately when clinicians are diagnosing coeliac disease. This also may lead to certain patient groups being diagnosed without having to undergo a biopsy.