Something Like a Cold Leads to Diabetes

Researchers add strength to hypothesis that enteroviruses cause type 1 diabetes

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Although the causes of type 1 diabetes remain largely unknown, Australian researchers have added support to the evidence showing that cold-like viruses may be responsible for the disease.

After reviewing 24 articles and two abstracts involving information on 4,448 individuals, Australian researchers - led by Dr. Maria Craig, concluded that there is a strong relationship between enteroviruses and the development of type 1 diabetes. In fact, the review revealed that children with diabetes were 10 times more likely than children without diabetes to have an enterovirus infection.

Enteroviruses are any group of RNA viruses that generally occur in the gastrointestinal tract, but can also spread to the nervous system and other parts of the body. Enteroviruses are responsible for polio and hepatitis A, but also cause cold or flu symptoms, fever, muscle aches, and rash.

This review is not the first time enteroviruses have been linked to the development of type 1 diabetes. However, this study uses new data that increases the likelihood of the link.

Type 1 diabetes is caused by a combination of factors. Genetics, the immune system, and the environment all play a role in the development of type 1 diabetes. In recent years, type 1 diabetes has become more common. The increased incidence of type 1 diabetes could be partially explained by the role of enteroviruses.

Although the relationship between enteroviruses and type 1 diabetes has proven significant, the exact role these viruses play is still unknown. Enteroviruses could trigger the disease or act as accelerators of the progression of the disease.

The authors conclude that larger studies are needed in order to definitively establish a relationship between enterovirus infection and type 1 diabetes. The review appears online in the journal BMJ.

Type 1 diabetes most commonly affects children. The disease occurs when the body cannot produce insulin, a necessary hormone for metabolizing sugar. Extra sugar in the blood can result in serious health problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, loss of sight or limbs, and early death.

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Review Date: 
February 7, 2011
Last Updated:
February 7, 2011