Celiac Support Association

History of Gluten Induced Conditions    

What is the origin of  Gluten-Related Disorders?
Celiac disease (CD) was first described in the second century, but  the cause wasn't identified until the 20th century. Terminology has changed as research confirmed that celiac disease diagnosed in children was the same disease as non-tropical sprue diagnosed in adults. The term "celiac disease" is now most commonly used. Another term for the same condition includes "gluten sensitive enteropathy." Dermatitis herpetiformis also known as Duhring's disease and gluten ataxia are generally considered specific manifestations of celiac disease. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity symptoms and treatment are just like celiac disease without HLA similarity. Only recently gluten sensitivity has been separated from the celiac disease umbrella. 

CD was born over 2000 years ago. In 2008, the “case of Cosa”, revealed a skel­eton of a first century AD young woman at the archaeological site of Cosa, southwest of Tuscany, Italy. She was a 18-20 year-old woman, with signs of failure to thrive and malnutrition.  The skeleton showed typical celiac disease damage and the presence of HLA-DQ2.5.  Gasbarrini G, Miele L, Corazza GR, Gasbarrini A. When was celiac disease born?: the Italian case from the archeo-logic site of Cosa. I Clin Gastroenterol 2010; 44: 502-503

A Brief History of Celiac Disease
In 250 A.D., Aretaeus of Cappadocia included detailed descriptions of an unnamed disease in his writings. When describing his patients he referred to them as "koiliakos," which meant "suffering in the bowels."  Francis Adams translated these observations from Greek to English for the Sydenham Society of England in 1856. He thus gave sufferers the moniker "celiacs" or "coeliacs."  Thus Europe uses the spelling coeliac disease with the "o".

US prevalence is 2013 is estimated at 1 in 141 from the CDC NHANES Survey. 

Samuel Gee
Samuel Gee, MD

First to link diet to celiac disease treatment
September 13th is designated National Celiac Disease Awareness Day in honor of Gee’s birthday.

In 1888, Gee presented clinical accounts of children and adults with celiac disease at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in the United Kingdom. Gee stated, “to regulate the food is the main part of treatment. The allowance of farinaceous foods must be small, but if the patient can be cured at all, it must be by means of diet.”

Dr. Willem Karel Dicke Willem Karel Dicke, MD

Linked Wheat to Cause of Celiac Disease
February 15      World Gluten-Related Disorder Awareness Day  

Dutch pediatrician, Willem Karel Dicke, MD was recognized in 1952 for linking the ingestion of wheat proteins as cause of celiac disease. By 1954, Dicke, Charlotte Anderson and a number of their colleagues, working in Birmingham, England confirmed the treatment and described the histologic damage to the intestinal mucosa as being directly related to celiac disease. He wrote his doctoral thesis on the subject for the University of Utrecht in 1950. 


William Holmes Crosby, Jr   MD

Cyrus E Rubin, MD 

Crosby   1914 - 2005  In the winter of 1952-1953, Crosby directed a Mobile US Army Surgical Hospital in Korea. It was during this period he became aware that some of the soldiers and their wives may have celiac disease. He returned to Walter Reed in Washington D.C. and established a "Sprue Team" with international implications. Crosby developed the Crosby–Kugler capsule also known as the Crosby Capsule, as a less invasively method to take tissue samples of small intestine. 

Rubin  1921 - 2011 Seattle, Washington.  In the late 1950s and the 1960s he refined the intestinal biopsy leading directly to the accurate diagnosis of celiac disease. Use of the Rubin Tube demonstrated that celiac sprue in children and in adults were identical disorders.  His 1960 paper established the diagnostic criteria for celiac disease. 

1986 Estimated 1 in 5000   effected US

1 in 10 incidence close relative           

Anne Ferguson 


 Uncovered the Role of Mucosal T Lymphocytes in Mucosal Architecture in the Small Bowel

Noted the wide spectrum of antigen-induced mucosal changes with gluten-sensitivity beyond the strict definition of celiac disease. 



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