More Evidence to Support that Interferon Therapy Can Trigger Type 1 Diabetes

The structure of human interferon betaIt’s no secret that interferon therapy can trigger autoimmune disorders such as type 1 diabetes. In a nationwide cross-sectional survey in Japan, researchers found more evidence to support that. They assessed the clinical, immunologic, and genetic characteristics of type 1 diabetes brought on by interferon therapy.

Japanese researchers published their findings in the September 2011 issue of Diabetes Care in an article called “Type 1 diabetes and interferon therapy: a nationwide study in Japan.”

They examined 91 patients who had type 1 diabetes that developed during or shortly after interferon therapy. They looked at the patients’ clinical characteristics, anti-islet autoantibodies, and HLA-DR typing.

The median age at the onset of type 1 diabetes was 56 years old (with an interquartile range of 48 to 63 years old), and the mean ±SD BMI was 20.8 ± 2.7 kg/m2. It was noted that the period of time from the start of interferon therapy to the onset of type 1 diabetes in patients who received pegylated interferon and ribavirin was considerably shorter than for those who received non-pegylated interferon single therapy (p<0.05).

For 94.5% of the study’s participants, anti-islet autoantibodies were identified at the onset of type 1 diabetes. The study found that in the adult Japanese population, type 1 diabetes susceptibility to HLA-DRs—specifically, DR4 and DR9—was linked to the development of interferon treatment-related type 1 diabetes. In addition, HLA-DR13 was notably higher in participants who had interferon treatment-related type 1 diabetes than in those who were healthy (odds ratio 3.80 [95% CI; 2.20–7.55]; p<0.0001) or who had traditional type 1 diabetes (2.15 [1.17–3.93]; p<0.05).

The study further found that anti-islet autoantibodies should be examined before and during interferon therapy to identify those at high risk of developing type 1 diabetes. It also suggests that strong anti-viral treatment may trigger earlier development of type 1 diabetes, and patients who develop interferon treatment-related type 1 diabetes are already genetically susceptible.

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