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BACKGROUND: Untreated celiac disease is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Until now, no up-to-date figures have been available on the prevalence of celiac disease among children and adolescents in Germany, or on the percentage of undiagnosed cases. METHODS: To estimate the prevalence of celiac disease, serum samples obtained from 2003 to 2006 from participants in the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents (KiGGS) were studied for celiac disease-specific autoantibodies and total IgA. RESULTS: Of the 12 741 study participants aged 1 to 17 years (6546 boys, 6195 girls), 9 (0.07%) had a reported history of celiac disease. An elevated concentration of serum autoantibodies to tissue transglutaminase was found in 91 children with a normal IgA concentration and in 7 with IgA deficiency. The prevalence of undiagnosed celiac disease, based on positive autoantibody findings, was 0.8% (95% confidence interval 0.6-1.0%), and the overall prevalence of the disease was 0.9%. Seropositive children and adolescents had lower ferritin and red blood cell folate concentrations than seronegative ones; they also tended to be shorter and to weigh less as reflected by age- and sex-standardized z-scores. CONCLUSION: The 0.9% prevalence of celiac disease in Germany, as determined from a combination of serological findings and clinical histories, is similar to reported prevalences elsewhere in Europe and North America. Pediatricians, primary care physicians, internists, and other specialists should be aware of the broad spectrum of clinical manifestations of this disease. Children who have symptoms suggestive of celiac disease or belong to a group at risk for it should be tested for antibodies against tissue transglutaminase, as should symptomatic adults after the exclusion of other possible causes. It is not yet clear whether asymptomatic adults from high-risk groups should be tested.

Original publication




Journal article


Dtsch Arztebl Int

Publication Date





553 - 560


Adolescent, Adolescent Health, Age Distribution, Biomarkers, Celiac Disease, Child, Child Health, Child, Preschool, Female, GTP-Binding Proteins, Germany, Humans, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Male, Prevalence, Risk Factors, Sex Distribution, Transglutaminases