Editor’s note: In this case report of infants with severe malabsorption from celiac disease, the treating physicians found copper deficiencies based on blood studies that showed severe low copper levels and white blood cell count. Treatment required copper supplementation in addition to the gluten-free diet. Normally, in the last few months of gestation, an infant stores a large amount of copper in their liver. This storage must last about 6 months because infants must derive their nourishment from copper-poor milk. This case report shows dramatically the terrible effect of malabsorption coupled with a naturally occurring huge demand for copper that could not be satisfied through digestion.
MEDICAL RESEARCH: “Copper Deficiency in Infants with Active Celiac Disease.”
Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology
and Nutrition. Aug 1985;4(4):677-80
Researchers: Goyens P, Brasseur D, Cadranel S
History: Celiac disease was diagnosed in two unrelated infants aged 7 and 7.5 months with severe malnutrition. They showed typical clinical, biological, and histological signs of the disease. Moreover, accompanying copper deficiency was suggested by severe hypocupremia and persistent neutropenia; bone radiographs were also compatible with this diagnosis. Rapid and complete correction of these anomalies could only be obtained after addition of oral copper sulfate to the gluten-free diet.
Conclusions: Mechanisms possibly involved in the development of copper deficiency in young infants with celiac disease are: chronic malabsorption; high copper needs in rapidly growing infants; and possibly increased biliary and digestive losses. It is therefore suggested that young children with severe celiac disease should be monitored for their copper status.
[Note: Originally published Aug 23, 2010]