1. The cellobiose/mannitol and 51Cr-labelled ethylenediaminetetra-acetate (51Cr-EDTA) absorption tests have been compared with respect to their ability to detect altered intestinal permeability in coeliac disease.

2. In patients with clinically proven coeliac disease, 13 out of 14 (93%) had abnormal urinary cellobiose/mannitol ratios, while only five out of 12 (42%) had abnormal urinary recoveries of 51Cr-EDTA. Thus, the cellobiose/mannitol absorption test is more sensitive in recognizing coeliac disease and this difference was significant (P < 0.02).

3. Possible reasons for this difference in the sensitivity of the two absorption tests are discussed.

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