A situation in which virus can be used as a therapeutic agent to prevent a lethal autoimmune disease is explored. Nonobese insulin-dependent diabetes (NOD) mice spontaneously develop insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM), characterized by lymphocytic infiltration into the islets of Langerhans and beta cell destruction, resulting in hypoinsulinemia, hyperglycemia, ketoacidosis, and death. Infection of NOD mice with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) aborts the autoimmune manifestations and resultant IDDM. The viruses' effect is on a subset of CD4+ lymphocytes. Ablating this autoimmune diabetes does not significantly alter immune responses to a variety of non-LCMV antigens that require CD4+ lymphocyte participation. The prevention of IDDM associated with viral therapy is maintained throughout the life spans of NOD mice.