Possible Virus Link To Type 1 Diabetes: Is This News?

Ann Bartlett Health Guide
  • When I was a teen, I can remember my dad on the phone in his home office talking to researchers about what caused type 1 diabetes. In the late 1970s, there was a theory that a particular virus called the Coxsackie B4 virus was a direct cause. Statistics showed that a high number of newly diagnosed cases also had the Coxsackie B4 virus within six months of diagnosis.


    My father was astute enough to ask my doctor what virus I had been tested for when I had that nasty sore throat, two months prior to diagnosis; low and behold, I had tested positive for Coxsackie B4 virus!  But by the early 90s the research on the Coxsackie virus connection faded into the background and other research took its place. 

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    This week, at the General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, new evidence was presented of a viral connection to the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.  Researchers used enterovirus infectivity and genome fragments to look for a connection to type 1 diabetes. Researchers tested 112 children between the ages of 2 and 16 for enteroviral DNA at the time of their type 1 diagnosis and 83% tested positive for an enteroviral. What is most interesting is the comparison of patients with diabetes versus healthy patients. Those diagnosed with type 1 showed an 83% positive test versus a 7% positive test in healthy patients without diabetes. To me, this is a rather compelling statistic! 


    The test group presentes a high A1c level at diagnosis, which suggests that the enteroviruses had been present for two-three months.  Researchers said,  "This data does not provide a casual relationship between enterovirus infections and diabetes. However, the high prevalence of enteroviral sequences in newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes cases indicates that different enterovirus types represent a significant biomarker of early stage juvenile diabetes."


    The research needs a larger population and more geographic areas to confirm, but researchers feel this could be one of the environmental factors contributing to type 1 diabetes.


    Enteroviruses are not life threatening; most show up in the form of a common cold, but one form of enterovirus is the poliovirus, which has a vaccine.  The thought is that if there is a relationship between type 1 and the enterovirus, it could help identify environmental factors that lead to developing type 1 diabetes. 


    Ok, so did I mention that included among the enteroviuses are 23 Coxsackie A viruses, 6 Coxsackie viruses, and 28 echoviruses?  Yup! 30 years later, we seem to be back in the same sandbox! 


Published On: May 27, 2010