Practical Clinical Applications of Islet Autoantibody Testing in Type 1 Diabetes

J Appl Lab Med. 2022 Jan 5;7(1):197-205. doi: 10.1093/jalm/jfab113.


Background: The distinction between type 1 diabetes (T1D) and type 2 diabetes (T2D) is extremely important for the choice of therapy, body weight and dietary management, screening for coexistent autoimmune diseases and comorbidities, anticipated prognosis, and risk assessment in relatives. Not uncommonly, the presentation of the patient may not allow an unambiguous discrimination between T1D and T2D. To help resolve this challenge, the detection of islet autoantibodies can support the diagnosis of T1D.

Content: The presence of islet autoantibodies in a person with diabetes indicates an autoimmune etiology therefore establishing the diagnosis of T1D. Presently 5 islet autoantibodies are available for routine clinical use: islet cell cytoplasmic autoantibodies (ICA), insulin autoantibodies (IAA), glutamic acid decarboxylase autoantibodies (GADA), insulinoma associated-2 autoantibodies (IA-2A), and zinc transporter-8 autoantibodies (ZnT8A). There are caveats to the selection of which islet autoantibodies should be measured. Islet autoantibodies can also predict the development of T1D. Therefore, once safe and effective therapies are available to prevent T1D, islet autoantibody testing is expected to become a routine part of medical practice. A very rare cause of autoimmune diabetes is the type B insulin resistance syndrome resulting from antagonistic autoantibodies to the insulin receptor. Rarely hypoglycemia can result from agonistic insulin receptor autoantibodies, or high-titer IAA causing the autoimmune insulin syndrome (i.e., Hirata disease).

Summary: In summary, autoimmune causes of dysglycemia are increasing in clinical importance requiring the scrutiny of laboratorians. The determination of islet autoantibodies can greatly aid in the diagnosis and the prediction of T1D.

Keywords: autoantibodies; autoimmune thyroid disease; autoimmunity; type 1 diabetes; type B insulin resistance syndrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Autoantibodies* / analysis
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1* / diagnosis
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase
  • Humans
  • Islets of Langerhans*
  • Zinc Transporter 8


  • Autoantibodies
  • Zinc Transporter 8
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase