Indications that the presence of an enterovirus may play a part in children developing Type 1 diabetes have been highlighted in two recent studies published in Diabetes, a journal of the American Diabetes Association.
The DAISY (Diabetes and Autoimmunity Study in the Young) project has been running in Denver, Colorado, since 1993, and has followed 2,365 children who were genetically predisposed to islet autoimmunity and Type 1 diabetes.
In a group of 140 children who repeatedly tested positive for islet autoantibodies at an average age of four, 50 progressed to Type 1 diabetes in the next few years. Having tested all the children regularly for signs of enterovirus in their blood, the researchers found that the risk of progressing to Type 1 was significantly increased in those where enterovirus was present.
In a second study conducted by some of the DAISY team in Finland, a group of children with Type 1 diabetes were matched with a similar control group who showed genetic susceptibility but did not have Type 1. In testing for enterovirus in the blood, the study found that positive samples were more frequent in the children who had Type 1 than in those who did not. The risk effect appeared to be stronger in boys than in girls.
The researchers of both studies concluded that enterovirus infection may play a role in the development of Type 1 diabetes in susceptible children.
The connection between viruses and Type 1 diabetes has been the subject of many studies in recent years. JDRF, which has funded research into this area, stresses that having a viral infection does not ‘cause’ a child to develop Type 1. Many factors play a part, but finding out more about how viruses might affect the immune system may help identify more targets for preventing autoimmune conditions like Type 1 diabetes.
To find out more about the DAISY study, visit its website here.