Duodenal mucosa showed normal morphology, interepithelial lymphocytes, alkaline phosphatase, and sucrase in a girl with growth retardation and iron deficiency, but normal absorption of lactose and xylose after two years of abnormal stools. Mucosal lactase was low. Fourteen months later mucosal damage consistent with coeliac disease was evident, and gluten intolerance was subsequently confirmed by gluten challenge. It is probable that, in some children, the mucosal lesion occurs very gradually, so that at an early stage with normal morphology, suppression of lactase activity and possibly interference with iron absorption may be the only abnormalities.
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