Sera from 106 cases of Addison's disease, 106 healthy controls matched for age and sex, 1021 other controls and 606 cases of endocrine and autoimmune diseases were examined for the occurrence of adrenal, thyroid, gastric, gonadal, salivary gland and antinuclear antibodies.
The adrenal antibody was found to be organ-specific and widely species-non-specific and occurred in about 70 % of the patients with idiopathic Addison's disease, but in no case of unequivocal tuberculous Addison's disease. The adrenal antibody was found in less than 0.1 % of the control sera and in less than 1.5 % of the other disease groups examined.
The group of patients with idiopathic Addison's disease with adrenal antibody had thyroid, gastric and gonadal antibodies in their sera with significantly greater frequency than any of the other groups.
This group was further characterized by low age at onset and a high prevalence of associated diseases.
On this basis it was suggested, that so-called idiopathic Addison's disease consists of two rather distinct subpopulations: One (25–30 %) which should still be considered idiopathic and another group (70-75 %) of autoimmune origin. The name Addison's adrenalitis is suggested for this type of primary adrenocortical insufficiency.