Pancreatic autoantibodies after pancreas–kidney transplantation – do they matter?

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Type 1 diabetes recurrence has been documented in simultaneous pancreas–kidney transplants (SPKT), but this diagnosis may be underestimated. Antibody monitoring is the most simple, noninvasive, screening test for pancreas autoimmune activity. However, the impact of the positive autoimmune markers on pancreas graft function remains controversial. In our cohort of 105 SPKT, we studied the cases with positive pancreatic autoantibodies. They were immunosuppressed with antithymocyte globulin, tacrolimus, mycophenolate, and steroids. The persistence or reappearance of these autoantibodies after SPKT and factors associated with their evolution and with graft outcome were analyzed. Pancreatic autoantibodies were prospectively monitored. Serum samples were collected before transplantation and at least once per year thereafter. At the end of the follow-up (maximum 138 months), 43.8% of patients were positive (from pre-transplant or after recurrence) for at least one autoantibody – the positive group. Antiglutamic acid decarboxylase was the most prevalent (31.4%), followed by anti-insulin (8.6%) and anti-islet cell autoantibodies (3.8%). Bivariate analysis showed that the positive group had higher fasting glucose, higher glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), lower C-peptide levels, and a higher number of HLA-matches. Analyzing the sample divided into four groups according to pre-/post-transplant autoantibodies profile, the negative/positive group tended to present the higher HbA1c values. Multivariate analysis confirmed the significant association between pancreas autoimmunity and HbA1c and C-peptide levels. Positivity for these autoantibodies pre-transplantation did not influence pancreas survival. The unfavorable glycemic profile observed in the autoantibody-positive SPKT is a matter of concern, which deserves further attention.

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