Enteroviruses may be linked to insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). The prevalence of enteroviral (EV) infection at onset of adult IDDM was investigated by detection of specific EV sequences in peripheral blood using a reverse transcription and a seminested polymerase chain reaction (seminested RT-PCR). EDTA-treated whole blood samples taken from 12 newly diagnosed IDDM patients with ketosis or ketoacidosis were examined. The comparison groups were 12 adult patients suffering from metabolic decompensation in the course of IDDM, 12 adult patients with decompensated non-IDDM, and 15 healthy adults without any presumed EV infection or metabolic disease. EV genome was detected in five of 12 (42%) newly diagnosed IDDM patients and in one of 12 (8%) patients in the course of IDDM. By contrast, none of the 12 non-IDDM patients and none of the 15 healthy adults had EV sequences in whole blood. Subsequent sequencing of the EV PCR products from the six positive patients showed a significant homology with Coxsackie B3 or B4 viruses, and some common patterns were observed among the sequences. The present study demonstrates that Coxsackie B virus RNA sequences can be detected in peripheral blood from patients at the onset or in the course of IDDM and provides evidence for a role for enteroviruses in adult type I diabetes.