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Intestinal Permeability Tests in Coeliac Disease by Simon D Johnston, Mike Smye, RG Peter Watson

Intestinal permeability tests have been used to screen for a wide range of small intestinal diseases, including coeliac disease and enteric infections. Several probe molecules have been used to investigate intestinal permeability including monosaccharides, disaccharides, 51Cr-EDTA and polyethyleneglycol. White many factors may affect intestinal permeability tests, the use of two probe molecules, for example, lactulose and mannitol, and the expression of the result as a ratio minimises the effects of these extraneous factors. Rendering the test solution hyperosmolar was also found to increase the sensitivity of the test in detecting coeliac disease. Intestinal permeability is characteristically elevated in untreated coeliac disease, with a sensitivity of up to 96% for the dual sugar techniques. The reason for this is a consistent increase in the absorption of lactulose (via the paracellular route) due to increased "leakiness" of the intestine and a reduction in the absorption of mannitol (via the transcellular route) due to a reduction in surface area as a result of villous atrophy. The intestinal permeability test allows subjects to be selected for jejunal biopsy in whom the clinical features are compatible with coeliac disease and in timing a follow-up biopsy. It has been postulated that raised intestinal permeability may be involved in the pathogenesis of coeliac disease. Recently, serum measurements of the probe molecules may have a valuable role, particularly in paediatric patients. Sucrose permeability has also been proposed as an accurate marker of adult coeliac disease and shows promise as a noninvasive test.

DOI: Clin. Lab. 2001;47:143-150