OBJECTIVE: To study the evolution of thyroid autoimmunity, in relation to the change in goitre prevalence, during 3 Years of iodine prophylaxis in Sri Lanka. METHODS: Two groups of Sri Lankan schoolgirls between the ages of 10.8 and 17.5 Years were studied in 1998 (401 girls) and 2001 (282 girls). A prospective study was performed in 42 schoolgirls who were thyroid autoantibody (Ab)-positive (+ve) in 1998. Anthropometric measures, urinary iodine excretion (UIE), thyroid Volume, free thyroxine, free tri-iodothyronine, TSH, and thyroglobulin (Tg) and thyroid peroxidase (TPO) Ab were evaluated in all 683 girls. RESULTS: Goitre prevalence was significantly lower in 2001 compared with 1998 related to age (2.9% compared with 20.2%) and body surface area (11.6% compared with 40.8%), although UIE was unchanged. Prevalence of thyroid Ab in 2001 was also lower (23.4% compared with 49.9%); among those with the Ab, 34.8% had TgAb alone and 46.9% had a combination of TgAb+TPOAb, compared with 82.0% TgAb alone in 1998. In 2001, subclinical hypothyroidism was more frequent in Ab+ve (6.3%) than Ab-negative girls (1.0%). A cohort of 42 Ab+ve schoolgirls in 1998 (34 with TgAb alone, eight with TgAb+TPOAb) were evaluated again in 2001. Only 10 of them (23.8%) remained Ab+ve (mostly TPOAb+/-TgAb) in 2001. CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates that: (1) in 2001, goitre prevalence and thyroid autoimmunity rates were significantly lower than in 1998; (2) the pattern of thyroid Ab was different in the two surveys; (3) in 2001 alone, the occurrence of hypothyroidism was correlated with the presence of thyroid autoimmunity. These results indicate an evolution of thyroid autoimmune markers during the course of iodine prophylaxis, which has not been described before.
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