We examined humoral immunity in coeliac disease as expressed in serum (systemic immunity), and in saliva, jejunal aspirate, and whole gut lavage fluid (mucosal immunity). The aims were to define features of the secretory immune response (IgA and IgM concentrations and antibody values to gliadin and other food proteins measured by enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)) in active disease and remission, and to establish whether secretions obtained by relatively non-invasive techniques (saliva and gut lavage fluid) can be used for indirect measurements of events in the jejunum. Serum, saliva, and jejunal aspirate from 26 adults with untreated coeliac disease, 22 treated patients, and 28 immunologically normal control subjects were studied, together with intestinal secretions obtained by gut lavage from 15 untreated and 19 treated patients with coeliac disease and 25 control subjects. Jejunal aspirate IgA and IgM and gut lavage fluid IgM concentrations were significantly raised in patients with untreated coeliac disease; the lavage fluid IgM concentration remained higher in patients with treated coeliac disease than in controls. Serum and salivary immunoglobulin concentrations were similar in the three groups. Patients with untreated coeliac disease had higher values of antibodies to gliadin compared with treated patients and control subjects in all body fluids tested; these were predominantly of IgA and IgG classes in serum, and of IgA and IgM classes in jejunal aspirate and gut lavage fluid. Values of salivary IgA antibodies to gliadin were significantly higher in untreated coeliacs, though antibody values were generally low, with a large overlap between coeliac disease patients and control subjects. In treated patients, with proved histological recovery on gluten free diet, serum IgA antigliadin antibody values fell to control values, though serum IgG antigliadin antibody values remained moderately raised. In contrast, there was persistence of secretory antigliadin antibodies in treated patients (particularly IgM antibody) in both jejunal aspirate and gut lavage fluid. Antibody responses to betalactoglobulin and ovalbumin were similar to those for gliadin, including persistence of high intestinal antibody values in patients with treated coeliac disease. There was a positive correlation between antibody values in jejunal aspirate and gut lavage fluid, but not between saliva and jejunal aspirate; thus salivary antibodies do not reflect intestinal humoral immunity.
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