Enterovirus associated with type 1 diabetes identified — gives hope for vaccine

24 October 2013

For the first time, researchers have identified the types of enterovirus  associated with type 1 diabetes. Two collaborating teams have published the findings of their separate studies in the journal Diabetes.

One study is based on children taking part in the Finnish Type 1 Diabetes Prediction and Prevention (DIPP) study, which is a birth cohort study observing children at genetic risk for type 1 diabetes from birth up to clinical diabetes or 15 years of age.

The other study, called VirDiab, included children with newly diagnosed diabetes from five European countries. The results from these studies clearly show that members of the group B coxsackieviruses are associated with the risk of type 1 diabetes while the 35 other enterovirus types tested did not show such a connection.

These findings are in line with other recent reports suggesting that group B coxsackieviruses can spread to the pancreas and damage the insulin-producing cells.

Progress has been made recently in evaluating the possible role of enteroviruses, which have been connected with human type 1 diabetes in a variety of studies. These viruses are common in children, and more than 100 different enterovirus types have been identified in humans.

A subset of these enteroviruses can cause serious illnesses such as: myocarditis, meningitis, the hand-food-and-mouth-disease as well as paralytic diseases such as polio. Although the association between type 1 diabetes and enteroviruses has been observed in various studies, until now it was not known which enterovirus types are most responsible for this effect. 

This new discovery, funded by multiple groups, opens up novel possibilities for future research aimed at developing vaccines against these viruses to prevent type 1 diabetes. Since the group B coxsackieviruses includes only six enterovirus types it may be possible to include all of them in the same vaccine. Effective vaccines have been available for a long time against another enterovirus group, called polioviruses, which includes three enterovirus types.

There is a clear need for a diabetes vaccine since no preventive treatments are currently available for type 1 diabetes. Based on the recent findings, it is estimated that such a vaccine could have the potential for preventing a significant proportion of new cases with type 1 diabetes. 

More research is needed, however, to confirm the causal relationship between group B coxsackieviruses and type 1 diabetes and to find out the underlying mechanisms of how these viruses can initiate the type 1 diabetes disease process.

More information

The DIPP study

The Finnish Type 1 Diabetes Prediction and Prevention (DIPP) study follows children with increased genetic risk for type 1 diabetes from birth and observes them continuously until they develop type 1 diabetes or reach the age of 15 years.

Altogether 12,000 children have been in the follow-up, close to 300 of them have got type 1 diabetes and many more have developed a subclinical autoimmune process.

The DIPP study is running in in Finland (join effort of the Universities of Oulu, Tampere and Turku) and is funded by multiple academic resources such as JDRF, Academy of Finland and European Commission.

The VirDiab study

The VirDiab study has created a biobank of samples collected from patients with n ewly diagnosed type 1 diabetesand healthy children in five European countries. It has been funded by the European Commission.


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