Elevated levels of antibodies to cow's milk proteins, i.e., β-lactoglobulin (BLG) and bovine serum albumin (BSA), have been associated with IDDM. We observed enhanced cellular immune response by a proliferation test of peripheral blood mononuclear cells to BLG in 22 of 40 (55%) patients with newly diagnosed IDDM compared with 7 of 32 healthy children (22%) (P = 0.004, X2 test). The median stimulation index to BLG was 3.3 in patients and 1.5 in healthy children (P = 0.003, Mann-Whitney U test). No difference was found in cellular reactivity to other cow's milk proteins, such as BSA or α-casein, or to a dietary immunogenic protein, ovalbumin. Cellular responsiveness to BLG was not associated with HLA-DQB1* risk alleles of IDDM, which suggests that immune response to the protein does not only reflect the accumulation of these HLA alleles in the patients with IDDM. We suggest that enhanced cellular immune response to dietary BLG may reflect a disturbance in the regulation of immune response to oral antigens in IDDM. This kind of defect may play a fundamental role in the development of β-cell autoimmunity in IDDM.

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