Specific autoantibodies characterize type 1 diabetes in childhood but are also found in adult-onset diabetes, even when initially non–insulin requiring, e.g., with latent autoimmune diabetes (LADA). We aimed to characterize adult-onset autoimmune diabetes.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
We consecutively studied 6,156 European diabetic patients attending clinics within 5 years of diagnosis (age range, 30–70 years) examined cross-sectionally clinically and for GAD antibodies (GADA) and antibodies to insulinoma-associated antigen-2 (IA-2A) and zinc-transporter 8 (ZnT8A).
Of 6,156 patients, 541 (8.8%) had GADA and only 57 (0.9%) IA-2A or ZnT8A alone. More autoantibody-positive than autoantibody-negative patients were younger, leaner, on insulin (49.5 vs. 13.2%), and female (P < 0.0001 for each), though LADA patients (9.7% of total) did not show categorically distinct clinical features from autoantibody-negative type 2 diabetes. Similarly, more GADA patients with high (>200 World Health Organization IU) (n = 403) compared with low (n = 138) titer were female, lean, and insulin treated (54.6 vs. 39.7%) (P < 0.02 for each). Autoantibody-positive patients usually had GADA (541 of 598; 90.5%) and had LADA more often than type 1 autoimmune diabetes (odds ratio 3.3).
Adult-onset autoimmune diabetes emerges as a prevalent form of autoimmune diabetes. Our results indicate that adult-onset autoimmune diabetes in Europe encompasses type 1 diabetes and LADA in the same broad clinical and autoantibody-positive spectrum. At diagnosis, patients with adult-onset autoimmune diabetes are usually non–insulin requiring and clinically indistinguishable from patients with type 2 diabetes, though they tend to be younger and leaner. Only with screening for autoantibodies, especially GADA, can they be identified with certainty.