Environmental factors, including viral infections, may explain an increasing and fluctuating incidence of childhood type 1 diabetes (T1D). Ljungan virus (LV) isolated from bank voles have been implicated, but it is unclear whether LV contributes to islet autoimmunity, progression to clinical onset, or both, of T1D. The aim was to test whether LV antibodies (LVAb) were related to HLA-DQ and islet autoantibodies in newly diagnosed T1D patients (n=676) and controls (n=309). Patients, 0–18 years of age, diagnosed with T1D in 1996–2005 were analyzed for LVAb, HLA-DQ genotypes, and all seven known islet autoantibodies (GADA, IA-2A, IAA, ICA, ZnT8RA, ZnT8WA, and ZnT8QA).
LVAb at 75th percentile, defined as cut off, was 90 (range 6–3936) U/mL and 4th quartile LVAb were found in 25% (170/676) of which 64% were <10 (n=108, p<0.0001), and 27% were<5 (n=45; p<0.0001) years old. The 4th quartile LVAb in children <10 years of age correlated to HLA DQ2/8, 8/8, and 8/X (p<0.0001). Furthermore, in the group with 4th quartile LVAb, 55% were IAA positive (p=0.01) and correlation was found between 4th quartile LVAb and IAA in children <10 years of age (p=0.035).
It is concluded that 1) LVAb were common among the young T1D patients and LVAb levels were higher in the younger age groups; 2) 4th quartile LVAb correlated with IAA; and 3) there was a correlation between 4th quartile LVAb and HLA-DQ8, particularly in the young patients. The presence of LVAb supports the notion that prior exposure to LV may be associated with T1D.