As with many diseases, type 1 diabetes is triggered by both genetic and environmental factors. There is not a single cause that can be pinpointed when it comes to why insulin-producing beta cells are destroyed by the body. However, researchers are constantly discovering different factors that may contribute to this process. A recent study found that children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) may have higher levels of enterovirus A (EV-A) in their gut than children without T1D.
In comparing faeces and plasma viromes and data for a birth cohort of 93 Australian children, results showed that 62 percent of children tested positive for at least one vertebrate-infecting virus. The researchers tested samples for all known vertebrate-infecting viruses, and five EV-A types came back as significantly abundant in children at the onset of T1D diagnosis than in control cases.
Viruses often survive longer in the gut than in the blood, so the prolonged presence of enteroviruses in the gut may increase the risk of these infections spreading to the pancreas. In turn, this may contribute to the body’s immune system attacking and destroying insulin-producing beta cells and triggering T1D.
The study opens doors for additional research regarding EV-A and viral load in general as it relates to T1D. These findings could potentially lead to the development of targeted vaccines for these identified viruses to help protect against the development of type 1 diabetes. It is yet another step toward understanding this complex disease and working toward a cure.
The Diabetes Research Connection (DRC), though not involved in this study, stays abreast of the latest research and discoveries in the field to support future advancements. The DRC provides critical funding to early career scientists to support novel, peer-reviewed studies related to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of type 1 diabetes.