In first-degree relatives of type 1 diabetic patients, we investigated whether diabetes risk assessment solely based on insulinoma antigen 2 (IA-2) and zinc transporter 8 (ZnT8) antibody status (IA-2A, respectively, ZnT8A) is as effective as screening for three or four autoantibodies [antibodies against insulin (IAA), glutamate decarboxylase 65 kDa (GAD) glutamate decarboxylase autoantibodies (GADA) and IA-2A with or without ZnT8A] in identifying children, adolescents and adults who progress rapidly to diabetes (within 5 years). Antibodies were determined by radiobinding assays during follow-up of 6444 siblings and offspring aged 0–39 years at inclusion and recruited consecutively by the Belgian Diabetes Registry. We identified 394 persistently IAA+, GADA+, IA-2A+ and/or ZnT8A+ relatives (6·1%). After a median follow-up time of 52 months, 132 relatives developed type 1 diabetes. In each age category tested (0–9, 10–19 and 20–39 years) progression to diabetes was significantly quicker in the presence of IA-2A and/or ZnT8A than in their joint absence (P < 0·001). Progression rate was age-independent in IA-2A+ and/or ZnT8A+ relatives but decreased with age if only GADA and/or IAA were present (P = 0·008). In the age group mainly considered for immune interventions until now (10–39 years), screening for IA-2A and ZnT8A alone identified 78% of the rapid progressors (versus 75% if positive for ≥ 2 antibodies among IAA, GADA, IA-2A and ZnT8A or versus 62% without testing for ZnT8A). Screening for IA-2A and ZnT8A alone allows identification of the majority of rapidly progressing prediabetic siblings and offspring regardless of age and is more cost-effective to select participants for intervention trials than conventional screening.