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Type I diabetes mellitus is an autoimmune disease resulting from the interaction of genetic and environmental factors. A virus that was identified serologically as Kilham's rat virus (KRV) was isolated from a spontaneously diabetic rat and reproducibly induced diabetes in naive diabetes-resistant (DR) BB/Wor rats. Viral antigen was not identified in pancreatic islet cells, and beta cell cytolysis was not observed until after the appearance of lymphocytic insulitis. KRV did not induce diabetes in major histocompatibility complex-concordant and discordant non-BB rats and did not accelerate diabetes in diabetes-prone BB/Wor rats unless the rats had been reconstituted with DR spleen cells. This model of diabetes may provide insight regarding the interaction of viruses and autoimmune disease [corrected]

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