Background and methods: Type 1 diabetes mellitus is now classified as autoimmune (type 1A) or idiopathic (type 1B), but little is known about the latter. We classified 56 consecutive Japanese adults with type 1 diabetes according to the presence or absence of glutamic acid decarboxylase antibodies (their presence is a marker of autoimmunity) and compared their clinical, serologic, and pathological characteristics.
Results: We divided the patients into three groups: 36 patients with positive tests for serum glutamic acid decarboxylase autoantibodies, 9 with negative tests for serum glutamic acid decarboxylase antibodies and glycosylated hemoglobin values higher than 11.5 percent, and 11 with negative tests for serum glutamic acid decarboxylase antibodies and glycosylated hemoglobin values lower than 8.5 percent. In comparison with the first two groups, the third group had a shorter mean duration of symptoms of hyperglycemia (4.0 days), a higher mean plasma glucose concentration (773 mg per deciliter [43 mmol per liter]) in spite of lower glycosylated hemoglobin values, diminished urinary excretion of C peptide, a more severe metabolic disorder (with ketoacidosis), higher serum pancreatic enzyme concentrations, and an absence of islet-cell, IA-2, and insulin antibodies. Immunohistologic studies of pancreatic-biopsy specimens from three patients with negative tests for glutamic acid decarboxylase autoantibodies and low glycosylated hemoglobin values revealed T-lymphocyte-predominant infiltrates in the exocrine pancreas but no insulitis and no evidence of acute or chronic pancreatitis.
Conclusions: Some patients with idiopathic type 1 diabetes have a nonautoimmune, fulminant disorder characterized by the absence of insulitis and of diabetes-related antibodies, a remarkably abrupt onset, and high serum pancreatic enzyme concentrations.