Aims/hypothesis: To determine whether the emergent infection by echovirus 16 that occurred in Cuba during the year 2000 was related to the presence of Type 1 diabetes associated autoantibodies.
Methods: The presence of ICA, IAA, GADA, IA2 antibodies and neutralizing antibodies (NtAb) to echovirus 16 were determined in sera from 38 infected children and adolescents and 80 control subjects, matched in sex, age, local residence and time of sample collection.
Results: The occurrence of a large-scale echovirus 16 epidemic was associated with the appearance of humoral autoimmune markers of Type 1 diabetes, especially for ICA, IAA and GADA. In the convalescent stage, ICA, IAA and GADA seroconversion was shown in 92.1%, 44.7% and 28.9% of echovirus 16 infected subjects. None of the 80 uninfected subjects had ICA or IAA, while one was GADA positive. ICA, IAA and GADA frequency was higher in the convalescent than in the acute stage (p<0.0005). A strong positive correlation was found between the NtAb to echovirus 16 and ICA titres in both acute and convalescent stage (r=0.91; p<0.0001, r=0.55; p=0.0003 respectively).
Conclusion/interpretation: This work provides evidence of an association between echovirus 16 infection and the presence of Type 1 diabetes related antibodies (ICA, IAA and GADA). Our data show that the echovirus 16 infection might be capable of inducing a process of autoimmune beta-cell damage and support the hypothesis that enterovirus infections are important risk factors for the development of Type 1 diabetes.