Italian Scientists Find a Viral Link to Type 1 Diabetes


By: Patrick Totty

Italian researchers have found a link between a common virus and type 1 diabetes that may open the door to answers about what triggers the disease in children.

Scientists at the University of Insurbia in Varese, Italy, tested the blood of 112 children between two and 16 years of age immediately after they had been diagnosed with type 1. The researchers were looking for the presence of DNA left over from infection by an enterovirus, a common, very mild virus that usually produces either no symptoms or mild ones, such as aching muscles or rashes.

The scientists knew that previous studies have shown a possible link between enteroviruses and the onset of type 2. Their study results confirmed the link: 83 percent of the children with type 1 had low-level enterovirus infection, compared to 7 percent of children without the disease.

The researchers acknowledge that establishing a link between enteroviruses and the onset of type 1 diabetes is not the same as proving that the viruses cause the disease. But knowing to look for enterovirus markers in a child’s blood could provide a sort of early warning that the child is predisposed to developing type 1.

By looking at other environmental factors that accompany the presence of enteroviruses, scientists may be able to plot out a sequence of events that have to happen before the disease develops. They could then create ways to thwart or block the cumulative effects of those factors.

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