Antibodies to glutamic acid decarboxylase (anti-GAD) are common in typical insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, and also identify a sub-group of older persons who are originally misdiagnosed as having non-insulin-dependent disease (NIDDM). The Wanigela people of Papua New Guinea are highly susceptible to diabetes mellitus, with a prevalence of 20.4% in urbanised young adults aged 25-34 years. On the basis of clinical features including the presence of obesity and relatively high insulin concentrations the Wanigelas have NIDDM. To determine whether anti-GAD is present in this high prevalence form of diabetes, and to investigate whether there might be an autoimmune component to the disease, we measured anti-GAD in 93 newly-diagnosed diabetic subjects aged 25-44 years, and in 40 controls with normal glucose tolerance. There was no difference in mean levels of anti-GAD in diabetic subjects and normal controls. Two subjects had borderline elevated anti-GAD levels: one was a normal control, and the other a diabetic. This study shows that anti-GAD is not present in this (and probably other) high prevalence variant of NIDDM. Moreover, the results suggest strongly that diabetes in the Wanigela people is unlikely to have an autoimmune component to its pathogenesis.
- GAD antibodies