Genetic prediction of type 1 diabetes in a population with low frequency of HLA risk genotypes and low incidence of the disease (the DIABFIN study)

R Buzzetti, A Galgani, A Petrone, M L Del Buono, H A Erlich, T L Bugawan, R Lorini, F Meschi, G Multari, P Pozzilli, M Locatelli, G Bottazzo, U Di Mario
Diabetes/metabolism Research and Reviews 2004, 20 (2): 137-43

BACKGROUND: To develop a sensitive, specific screening strategy for predicting genetic risk for type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) in the low-incidence continental Italian population, and to define with this tool, a cohort of high-to-moderate risk infants for an immunological follow-up study aimed at identifying environmental risk factors for T1DM.

METHODS: 4855 newborns in three regions of continental Italy were screened for T1DM HLA-DRB1-DQB1 risk genotypes using a reverse line blot typing method. Risk classification was based on odds ratios (OR) found in a preliminary case-control study (356 T1DM patients, 412 controls). Screening efficiency was optimized by allele subtyping.

RESULTS: Screening for well-known T1DM susceptibility genotypes [DRB1*03/*04-DQB1*0302; DRB1*03/*03; DRB1*04/*04-DQB1*0302; DRB1*04-DQB1*0302/X where X is not equal to DRB1*03, DRB1*04-DQB1*0302, DQB1*0602 or DQB1*0603] was associated with <60% sensitivity due to their low frequencies in the general Italian population. Inclusion of an additional genotype from which protective DRB1 and DQB1 alleles had been excluded [DRB1*03/X degrees where DQB1 is not equal to *0301, *0503, *0602, or *0603 and X degrees not equal DRB1*03, DRB1*04-DQB1*0302 or DRB1*07] increased screening sensitivity to 75% (specificity: 85%). Among 4855 newborns, we have found the high-risk genotype [DRB1*03/*04-DQB1*0302; estimated absolute risk (AR) 1/23] to be present in only 0.9%. The moderate-risk genotypes were found in 13.8% of newborns (estimated AR 1/177).

CONCLUSIONS: Risk classification must be tailored to the characteristics of the individual population, in particular, the allelic frequencies in the background population and T1DM prevalence. We have developed a screening strategy with good levels of sensitivity that should prove effective for use throughout the Italian peninsula.

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