Cold virus associated with type 1 diabetes risk

People who have type 1 diabetes and prediabetes autoimmunity are 10 times more likely to be infected by the enterovirus, a microbe that causes everything from the common cold to meningitis and polio, than the general population, according to a new study from a team of Australian researchers.

The findings raise interesting questions about whether the virus itself may be a factor in causing the development of diabetes. The researchers said that incidences of type 2 diabetes have been rising around the world, and many experts have suggested that environmental factors may be to blame. In fact, the average annual increase in Europe between 1989 and 2003 was 3.9 percent, which is too rapid to be attributed to genetic factors.

In the search for a potential environmental factor, researchers from the Children's Hospital at Westmead in Sydney, Australia analyzed 24 previously published studies on diabetes-related autoimmunity and type 1 diabetes. They reported in the British Medical Journal that they found a strong association between these conditions and the presence of the enterovirus.

The researchers were quick to point out that their results do not prove that enterovirus causes or contributes to the development of type 1 diabetes. However, they said that the study does provide further evidence that environmental factors may be behind the sudden increase in prevalence of the disease, and that the relationship warrants further testing.

"While the findings from this meta-analysis of observational studies cannot prove that enterovirus infection has a causal role in pathogenesis of diabetes, the results provide additional support to the direct evidence of enterovirus infection in pancreatic tissue of individuals with type 1 diabetes," they wrote in their report.
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