Open Access Open Badges Research article

Screening for celiac disease in 1st degree relatives: a 10-year follow-up study

Rosa H Uenishi14, Lenora Gandolfi124, Lucas M Almeida24, Patrícia M Fritsch24, Fernanda C Almeida24, Yanna K M Nóbrega134 and Riccardo Pratesi124*

Author Affiliations

1 Graduate Program in Health Sciences, University of Brasilia School of Health Sciences, Brasilia, DF, Brazil

2 Graduate Program in Medical Sciences, University of Brasilia School of Medicine, Brasilia, DF, Brazil

3 Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Brasilia School of Health Sciences, Brasilia, DF, Brazil

4 Research Center for Celiac Disease, University of Brasilia School of Medicine, Brasilia, DF, Brazil

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Gastroenterology 2014, 14:36  doi:10.1186/1471-230X-14-36

Published: 20 February 2014



Although it is known that first degree relatives of celiac patients have an increased risk for celiac disease few studies are available on its incidence. We investigated the incidence of serologic conversion and of new cases of celiac disease among first degree relatives with negative results at a first screening.


From a total of 634 first degree relatives of 186 biopsy-proven celiac disease patients diagnosed between October 2000 and October 2010, 450 subjects agreed to participate in the study (Group I), and underwent serologic screening. Between January 2010 and October 2012, out of the initial group of 450, 205 previously sero-negative subjects consented to participate in a second stage of the study and undergo new serologic testing (Group II). All serologically positive individuals of both groups (I and II) were genotyped for celiac disease-predisposing alleles (HLA-DQ2/DQ8).


19 subjects (4.2%) out of the 450 subjects of Group I disclosed positive serologic results, presence of DQ2 and/or DQ8 alleles and celiac disease-compatible mucosal abnormalities. The 205 previously negative first degree relatives from Group II that underwent new serologic testing disclosed eight sero-converted subjects. Mucosal abnormalities in five of these patients confirmed the diagnosis of celiac disease. During the 10-year period of the study the incidence of sero-conversion was 8/205 and the incidence of biopsy-proven celiac disease cases was 5/205.


Our data are coincident with other works on this subject and confirm once again that relatives of celiac patients, especially first degree relatives are at high risk of developing celiac disease. In view of the relatively low incidence further studies are needed to try to establish a useful and cost-effective algorithm for follow-up of relatives of celiac patients.

Celiac disease; First degree relatives; Serologic tests; Incidence; Prevalence