A 15-year-old boy with epilepsy and cerebral calcifications, treated with valproic acid, ethyl phenylbarbiturate and ethosuximide, was referred for drug induced systemic lupus erythematosus. Anti-gliadin (AGA) and anti-endomysium (EMA) antibody tests were both positive (EMA titre 1:50). Endoscopic duodenal biopsy showed intense chronic inflammation without villous atrophy or crypt hyperplasia. The child was discharged with a gluten-containing diet. The follow-up showed an increase in EMA titre (1:200) and the persistence of AGA. After 15 months, a second endoscopic intestinal biopsy showed flat mucosa and villous atrophy. Three serum folic acid determinations showed 1.8, 2.4, 2.0 ng/ml (reference range 2.5–16.9 ng/ml) prior to the two intestinal biopsies, but returned to normal levels (11.8 ng/ml) after a gluten-free diet and oral supplementation together. Two years later, the frequency of epileptic seizures was unchanged despite ongoing anti-epileptic treatment and a gluten-free diet. As cerebral calcification and epilepsy are reminiscent of the findings in congenital folate malabsorption, oral loading tests with 5 mg folic acid were carried out and showed impaired intestinal absorption and a defect in the transport across the blood-brain barrier. Low CSF folate levels (13.9 and 12.6 ng/ml, reference range 15–40 ng/ml) and an alteration in the CSF/serum folate ratio (1.43 and 1.16, normal ratio 3:1) were also found as well as increased levels of cystathionine both in CSF (40 μmol/l, reference range 18–28 μmol/l) and in serum (32 μmol/l, reference value <0.10 μmol/l).
Conclusion Impairment of intestinal folic acid absorption with a defect in folic acid transport across the blood-brain barrier has been demonstrated in a case of epilepsy and cerebral calcifications associated with coeliac disease.
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Received: 12 November 1998 / Accepted: 29 February 2000
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Calvani Jr, M., Parisi, P., Guaitolini, C. et al. Latent coeliac disease in a child with epilepsy, cerebral calcifications, drug-induced systemic lupus erythematosus and intestinal folic acid malabsorption associated with impairment of folic acid transport across the blood-brain barrier. Eur J Pediatr 160, 288–292 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1007/s004310100728
- Key words Cerebral calcifications
- Drug-induced systemic lupus erythematosus
- Latent coeliac disease
- Folic acid malabsorption