The cellular infiltrate of the jejunal mucosa has been studied in patients with both treated and untreated adult coeliac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis and serially in treated patients before and after the reintroduction of gluten to the diet. In adult coeliac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis the jejunal mucosa showed similar abnormalities of the cellular infiltrate which was characterized by an increase in intraepithelial lymphocytes and lamina propria plasma cells and eosinophils, with the greatest numbers of cells occurring in untreated patients. At 24-48 hours following a single 25-g gluten challenge there was an increase in lamina propria plasma cells, lymphocytes and eosinophils and intraepithelial lymphocytes. This rise was sustained after seven days on a gluten-containing diet for all of these cell groups except lamina propria lymphocytes. These responses were essentially similar in both adult coeliac disease and in those dermatitis herpetiformis patients who had jejunal lesions before treatment. In dermatitis herpetiformis patients with normal jejunal morphology on a normal diet there was an upward trend in lamina propria plasma cells and intraepithelial lymphocytes within one to three weeks of taking extra dietary gluten. These results are compatible with the view that more than one immunological mechanism may be responsible for the pathogenesis of the jejunal lesion of coeliac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis.
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