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Cerebellar Ataxia, Peripheral Neuropathy, "Gluten Sensitivity" and Anti-neuronal Autoantibodies by Robert J Lock, Dsna Pengiran Tengah, Alistair JK Williams, John J Ward, Polly J Binglcy, Adrian J Wills and David J Unsworth

“Gluten sensitive” neurological syndromes (ataxia, peripheral neuropathy, and other conditions) have been hypothesised in patients with various idiopathic neuropathologies, detectable anti-gliadin antibodies and HLA-DQ2 or DQ7. Further investigation of these cases has suggested a high incidence of anti-neuronal antibodies (anti-Purkinje, antineuronal nuclear, anti-GAD). This study investigates this contentious area. Over a two-year period, from a local UK population base of two million, seeing over 5000 general neurology referrals per year, we collected 20 cases with idiopathic ataxia, and 32 with idiopathic peripheral neuropathy, and referred them all for blinded antibody testing. 30 adult healthy blood donors, and 7 cases of hereditary ataxia were used as control subjects. Anti-gliadin antibodies (IgG and or IgA) were found in 40% of cases with idiopathic ataxia, 34% with idiopathic peripheral neuropathy, 17% healthy blood donors and 43% with hereditary ataxia. None was positive for antiPurkinje cell or anti-neuronal nuclear antibodies. Only two patients with idiopathic ataxia were positive for anti- GAD antibodies (one also being anti-gliadin positive). We were unable to confirm the findings of other groups. First, cases of so-called “gluten sensitive” neurological syndromes were extremely rare in our centre. Second, our idiopathic cases, whether they be gliadin antibody seropositive or not (i.e. “gluten sensitive” or not) were rarely neuronal autoantibody positive.

DOI: Clin. Lab. 2006;52:589-592