Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Protracted diarrhoea of infancy: evidence in support of an autoimmune variant.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1986; 293 doi: (Published 01 November 1986) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1986;293:1132
  1. R Mirakian,
  2. A Richardson,
  3. P J Milla,
  4. J A Walker-Smith,
  5. J Unsworth,
  6. M O Savage,
  7. G F Bottazzo


    Circulating autoantibodies to enterocytes were detected by indirect immunofluorescence in 14 out of 25 patients with idiopathic protracted diarrhoea of infancy. Similar specificities were not found in 50 control children with nongastroenterological disorders. The immunofluorescence pattern was more accentuated on the apical border of mature enterocytes. Enterocyte autoantibodies were mainly of IgG class (13/14), but 11 sera were positive for IgM and IgA classes, and five out of 14 positive sera also had the ability to fix complement. Absorption of sera positive for autoantibodies with an IgA coupled immunoabsorbent did not modify the intensity of the staining, indicating that these antibodies were not directed against secretory IgA. High titres and the complement fixing ability of enterocyte autoantibodies indicated a poorer prognosis despite the use of immunosuppressive drugs. Organ specific and non-organ specific autoimmune diseases or corresponding autoantibodies or both were often found in children with enterocyte autoantibodies and their family. These data show the existence of an autoimmune variant of protracted diarrhoea of infancy, despite the rare occurrence of autoimmune diseases in childhood.