Enterovirus Infection Linked to Type 1 Diabetes


The generally harmless infection was present in more than 80% of the children studied, all of who had type 1 diabetes.

Researchers at the University of Insubria in Varese, Italy, led by Antonio Toniolo, have discovered a significant link between enterovirus infections and type 1, or juvenile, diabetes.

More than four-fifths, 80%, of the 112 children included in the study, all of who had type 1 diabetes, also had evidence of enterovirus infection in their blood. Symptoms of the virus can be flu-like or more severe, where the nervous symptom is impacted, but most people who have enterovirus infection have no obvious signs of illness, according to the researchers. Though the study did not reveal a causal link between enteroviruses and diabetes, the results are “in tune” with earlier studies that have suggested enterovirus infections are associated with diabetes, according to Toniolo.

"Infection by different enteroviruses may be linked to the early stages of diabetes," he said.

The team of researchers tested the blood of the 112 children, ranging in age from 2-16, at the time that they were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes to determine if their blood samples contained enteroviral DNA. These samples were then compared to samples from children without diabetes. Low-level enteroviral infectivity was seen in 83% of the patients with diabetes but only in seven percent of children without diabetes.

"These data do not provide a causal relationship between enterovirus infections and diabetes," Toniolo. "However, the high prevalence of enteroviral genome sequences in newly diagnosed type-1 diabetes cases indicate that different enterovirus types represent a significant biomarker of early stage juvenile diabetes.”

Toniolo presented the study at a conference of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego, California. He also explained that the next step is to determine if similar results are seen in studies of patients in other geographic areas, which would suggest that detecting enteroviruses early may help researchers find other environmental factors that lead to type 1 diabetes. This, in turn, could result in new methods for treating or preventing type 1 diabetes.

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