Aims/hypothesis: Neonatal diabetes mellitus is rare, and it has not been associated with beta-cell autoimmunity. Enteroviral infections during pregnancy have been implicated as a risk factor for the later development of Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus. We now report of a baby girl who was born severely growth-retarded with neonatal insulin-deficient diabetes, and look for evidence of intrauterine enteroviral infections and beta-cell targeted autoimmunity.
Methods: Diabetes-associated autoimmunity was studied by measurement of several types of islet cell reactive autoantibodies. The infant's T-cell responses to insulin and enterovirus antigens were recorded and enterovirus antibodies were measured both from the mother and the child.
Results: Several types of diabetes-associated autoantibodies were detected postnatally, including insulin autoantibodies, conventional islet cell autoantibodies and glutamic acid decarboxylase antibodies, whereas no autoantibodies were observed in the mother. The infant's T-cells showed reactivity to insulin and purified enterovirus particles. Based on serological studies, the pathogenetic process could have been triggered by an echovirus 6 infection during pregnancy. The patient's diabetes has been permanent, although there were signs of endogenous insulin production for several months. Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency was diagnosed at the age of 1 year.
Conclusion/interpretation: These observations suggests that enteroviral infections may induce beta-cell autoimmunity even in utero.