Intraepithelial lymphocyte counts were evaluated in 131 jejunal mucosal biopsies taken from children with a small intestinal enteropathy arising from a variety of causes including coeliac disease, (untreated, after gluten withdrawal, and during subsequent challenge), giardiasis, cow's milk protein intolerance, and 'intractable diarrhoea'. The counts were compared with those from the biopsies of children referred for investigation but in whom no gastrointestinal disease was demonstrated and from healthy siblings of children with coeliac disease, investigated during a family study. Children with coeliac disease showed a raised count which fell after gluten withdrawal as has been demonstrated by others in adults. Lymphocytic infiltration of the epithelium increased rapidly during gluten challenge in such children, while no change was seen in those children proven ultimately not to have coeliac disease by the usually recognized criteria. In other enteropathies the range of counts was wide, overlapping with both normal and coeliac groups and indicating the nonspecificity of lymphocytic infiltration of the gut epithelium. The findings are discussed in relation to their significance and to further avenues of investigation to determine their possible diagnostic value in confirming the diagnosis of coeliac disease during gluten challenge.
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