A collection of viral infections known as enterovirus could be linked to the onset of type 1 diabetes, research suggests.
People with diabetes were found to be more than nine times as likely to have had enterovirus, whose symptoms include fever, cold, rash, sickness and diarrhoea, than non-diabetes sufferers.
The discovery emerged after scientists in Sydney, Australia, reviewed 24 existing research papers on diabetes which featured more than 1,900 people with type 1 diabetes or a related condition known as pre-diabetes.
The majority of the participants in the studies were children, as the period during childhood is when most cases of type 1 diabetes develop.
The researchers found a strong association between enterovirus and type 1 diabetes.
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While they said the findings “cannot prove” that enterovirus infection causes diabetes, the results provide “additional support to the direct evidence of enterovirus infection in pancreatic tissue of individuals with type 1 diabetes”.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, the authors concluded: “Our results show an association between type 1 diabetes and enterovirus infection, with a more than nine times the risk of infection in cases of diabetes and three times the risk in children with autoimmunity.
“The odds of having an enterovirus infection in people with established diabetes suggest that persistent enterovirus infection is also common among patients with type 1 diabetes.”
Type 1 diabetes is believed to be caused by a complex relationship between genetic factors, the immune system and the environment.
Some 300,000 people in the UK have type 1 diabetes.
- Yeung WG, et al. Enterovirus infection and type 1 diabetes mellitus: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational molecular studies. British Medical Journal, Advance online.
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