FeaturesFeb/Mar 2014 Issue

Celiac Likeness

Celiac Likeness

The confounding mystery of sprue look-alikes

Doctors at the Mayo Clinic had a medical mystery on their hands in 2009. A number of their patients were suffering from severe, chronic diarrhea and profound weight loss. Some had lost 20 to 30 pounds in a matter of weeks. When doctors peered inside the patients’ intestines, their villi—the fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, aiding in absorption of nutrients and calories—were flattened or nearly flattened (villous atrophy). But the patients didn’t have key antibodies seen in celiac disease and treatment with the gluten-free diet didn’t help. It wasn’t celiac disease but something closely mimicking it.

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