by Peter Byass, Kathleen Kahn, Anneli Ivarsson
Coeliac disease has emerged as an increasingly recognised public health problem over the last half-century, and is now coming to be seen as a global phenomenon, despite a profound lack of globally representative epidemiological data. Since children with coeliac disease commonly present with chronic diarrhoea and malnutrition, diagnosis is often overlooked, particularly in poorer settings where children often fail to thrive and water-borne infectious diarrhoeas are common. This is the first attempt to make global estimates of the burden of coeliac disease in childhood. Methods
We built a relatively crude model of childhood coeliac disease, incorporating estimates of population prevalence, probability of non-diagnosis, and likelihood of mortality among the undiagnosed across all countries from 1970 to 2010, based around the few available data. All our assumptions are stated in the paper and the model is available as a supplementary file. Findings
Our model suggests that in 2010 there were around 2.2 million children under 5 years of age living with coeliac disease. Among these children there could be 42,000 deaths related to coeliac disease annually. In 2008, deaths related to coeliac disease probably accounted for approximately 4% of all childhood diarrhoeal mortality. Conclusions
Although coeliac disease may only account for a small proportion of diarrhoeal mortality, these deaths are not preventable by applying normal diarrhoea treatment guidelines, which may even involve gluten-based food supplements. As other causes of diarrhoeal mortality decline, coeliac disease will become a proportionately increasing problem unless consideration is given to trying gluten-free diets for children with chronic diarrhoea and malnutrition.