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.
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