A clinical syndrome, characterized by acute diabetic ketoacidosis associated with a toxic neuropathy, developed in five men who intentionally ingested a recently introduced rodenticide (Vacor) containing N-3-pyridylmethyl-N'-p-nitrophenyl urea (RH-787). A 7-yr-old boy, who accidentally ingested this poison, died within 14 h.
Marked insulinopenia, without a reduction in glucagon levels, suggested a specific beta-cytotoxic effect, which was supported after autopsy in three cases by histopathologic evidence of extensive beta cell destruction. Lethal effects in rats prevented investigation of RH-787's diabetogenicity in vivo; however, studies in isolated rat islets confirmed a direct inhibitory effect, which was prevented by concomitant incubation with nicotinamide, suggesting a mechanism of action similar to that of streptozotocin.
We detected islet cell-surface antibodies in two of four patients studied.
These findings indicate that this nongenetic, acquired form of insulinopenic diabetes, which has persisted in the surviving patients for up to 3 yr, presents a unique opportunity to test in man the concept that hyperglycemia and the accompanying metabolic consequences of insulinopenia can induce diabetic microangiopathy in the absence of genetic predisposition.