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sprue, chronic disorder of the small intestine caused by impaired absorption of fat and other nutrients. Two forms of the disease exist.

Tropical sprue occurs in central and northern South America, Asia, Africa, and other specific locations. No cause has been identified, but suggested causes include infection, parasitic infestation, vitamin deficiency, and food toxin. Tropical sprue responds to antibiotic and folic acid therapy.

Nontropical sprue, also called celiac disease, is primarily an autoimmune disease of young children and usually begins between the ages of 6 and 18 months, but it also can be triggered in susceptible adults. It is a hereditary congenital disorder caused by a sensitivity to the gliadin fraction of gluten, a cereal protein, but it appears to require an immunological trigger. The presence of gluten in the diet causes the immune system to attack the villi in the small intestine, interfering with the absorption of nutrients.

Nontropical sprue can be fatal, particularly if growth abnormalities are ignored or unrecognized. It is not known if scrupulous adherence to a gluten-free diet in this disease decreases the likelihood of intestinal lymphoma, but the deletion of gluten from the diet and the intake of vitamin, mineral, and hematinic supplements facilitate remission. Steroid treatments are often used if a gluten-free diet is ineffective; if steroid treatment is ineffective the prognosis is not good.

The symptoms of both types of sprue are generally the same: diarrhea with bulky, frothy, foul-smelling stools containing large amounts of fatty acids and soaps, and later weight loss, anemia, and other symptoms related to malabsorption of vitamins. X-ray examination of the small intestine revealing dilation, segmentation, and other typical changes is used in diagnosis.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a chronic disease of man that affects the bone marrow and the mucous membranes of the tongue, stomach, and intestines. Sprue’s etiology is unknown, but it is suspected that a deficiency of the B-complex vitamins plays a special role. The disease is manifested by persistent diarrhea, anemia, progressive emaciation, and damage to the peripheral nervous system. Sprue occurs primarily in countries with hot climates. In the USSR it occurs in Middle Asia and Transcaucasia. Treatment includes the observance of a protein and fat diet rich in the B-complex vitamins and the use of astringents; change of climate is also recommended.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A feed opening or vertical channel through which molten material, such as metal or plastic, is poured in an injection or transfer mold.
A slug of material that solidifies in the channel.
A syndrome characterized by impaired absorption of food, water, and minerals by the small intestine; symptoms are the result of nutritional deficiencies.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.