Babies and children * Young people

Virus strongly linked to diabetes

Virus  strongly linked  to diabetes Cold-like virus found in children

A common cold-like virus may be involved in the development of type 1 diabetes, researchers say.

Australian scientists found that people with diabetes are almost 10 times more likely to have been infected with a cold-like virus than those without the condition.

Enteroviruses are common, especially in infants and children. An infection can cause cold or flu symptoms, fever, muscle aches and rash. In severe cases an enterovirus infection can cause meningitis.

Past research has suggested a link between enteroviruses and type 1 diabetes, but the researchers say the findings have been contradictory. Type 1 diabetes often develops in childhood when cells in the pancreas stop producing insulin, making it impossible for the body to control insulin levels.

They analysed the results from 24 studies involving 4,448 participants, which looked at levels of protein and RNA from the virus in blood, stool and tissue samples. Most of the participants were children with and without diabetes or with pre-diabetes, a related condition.

The researchers, from the University of New South Wales and the Institute of Endocrinology and Diabetes in Sydney, found a strong association between enterovirus infection and type 1 diabetes, particularly in children.

Children with type 1 diabetes were almost 10 times more likely to have the enterovirus infection as other children.

And children with pre-diabetes were around three times more likely to have the infection than other children.

However, writing in the British Medical Journal, the researchers pointed out that this was an observational study, and does not prove that an enterovirus infection is the cause of type 1 diabetes.

Dr Iain Frame, director of research at Diabetes UK, said: "Many factors have been reported as being associated with Type 1 diabetes but that is not the same as causing Type 1 diabetes and this report based on looking at a number of previous studies does not bring us much closer to pinpointing the causes of Type 1 diabetes."

"We do, however, welcome any new analysis that brings about a better understanding of the involvement of certain viruses on the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

"It may well give us another piece of the jigsaw in working towards a better understanding of the causes of Type 1 diabetes which should in turn lead to new prevention strategies."

This article was published on Fri 4 February 2011

Image © Anetta -

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