Original Investigations

European Journal of Pediatrics

, Volume 139, Issue 2, pp 101-105

First online:

Small intestinal mucosa in coeliac disease and cow's milk protein intolerance: Morphometric and immunofluorescent studies

  • M. SternAffiliated withUniversitäts-Kinderklinik Hamburg
  • , R. DietrichAffiliated withUniversitäts-Kinderklinik Hamburg
  • , J. MüllerAffiliated withUniversitäts-Kinderklinik Hamburg

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


One hundred and twenty-five small intestinal biopsies from children with coeliac disease (CD), cow's milk protein intolerance (CMPI) and controls were compared by morphometric analysis, by counting intraepithelial lymphocytes (IEL) and by quantitative evaluation of immunoglobulin-containing cells of lamina propria. The double-stain immunofluorescent technique of Brandtzaeg and Baklien [2] was used, based on defined mucosal tissue units. A patchy enteropathy was found in 60% of CMPI, and in 14% of nonspecific changes, but never in CD. There was a significant difference in crypt depth between CD (360±80 μm) and CMPI (217±92 μm), even when lesions of equal grade were compared (P<0.015). IEL counts per 1000 epithelial cells showed even better discrimination between the groups (CD: 793±173, CMPI: 320±143, P<0.001). In CD, there was a relatively greater increase of IgM-cells (x4.9) and of IgG-cells (x4.2) than of IgA-cells (x2.6). Ig-cell changes outlasted the morphological lesion in CD on a gluten-free diet. In CMPI, IgM-cells (x2.3), IgG-cells (x2.5), and IgA-cells (x1.7) were proportionately increased, compared to controls. A special increase of IgE-cells in CMPI could not be substantiated.

By computerized stepwise discriminant analysis based upon crypt depth, villus/crypt-ratio, IEL-count, and counts of IgM-, IgG-, IgA-containing cells of lamina propria, accurate classification of patient groups was accomplished, even when only the initial biopsy data were analysed.

Key words

Coeliac disease Cow's milk protein intolerance Immunofluorescent technique Intraepithelial lymphocytes Morphometry