Although some previous studies have suggested that insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) is a heterogeneous condition with variant forms being associated with HLA-DR types, the evidence, thus far, is conflicting. To address this issue, we have examined the presenting characteristics of a consecutive admission series of 200 newly diagnosed cases of IDDM from the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. Because HLA-DR frequencies vary by race, data are presented only for the 172 white cases with complete HLA-DR typing. HLADR3 was found more frequently among male cases and DR4 among female cases (P < 0.005). Generally, patients with DR4 presented with a severer clinical picture, being more likely to have impaired consciousness and significant dehydration. In addition, patients with DR4 were more likely to be acidotic, ketotic, and to more frequently report a recent viral infection. This latter finding was supported by a greater frequency of antibodies to Coxsackie-B viruses in the DR4 cases at presentation. These results therefore suggest that there is considerable heterogeneity in IDDM, at least in presenting characteristics, according to HLA-DR type.

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