Type I diabetes is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. It affects five percent to 10% of people with diabetes and can start at an early age. Type I diabetes is known as an autoimmune disease. This means that your own immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Medical experts are not completely sure what causes the immune system to behave this way, but it could be triggered by something entirely unexpected: a cold-like virus.
Australian researchers recently conducted a review of a number of studies and found there was a strong association between enteroviruses and the development of type 1 diabetes. In fact, children with diabetes were 10 times more likely to have had an enterovirus infection than children without the disease!
For the study, the research team analyzed 24 papers and two abstracts involving 4,448 individuals to see if there was an association between type 1 diabetes and enterovirus (a virus that lives in the gut) infection. The data showed an especially strong association among children.
Enteroviruses usually cause cold or flu symptoms, fever, muscle aches, rash or even meningitis, they noted. Recently, there has been a worldwide increase in the incidence of childhood type 1 diabetes, especially in children under five, which the researchers now think could be the result of more exposure to these viruses.
The researchers caution, however, that they don’t yet know if enteroviruses are involved in all diabetes patients or just some. And they are still uncertain whether enteroviruses cause the onset of the disease or help in the progression of the disease. They speculate that a persistent infection or consecutive infections could play a role.
The research team hopes that this relationship between enteroviruses and type 1 diabetes might open up the possibility of developing new preventive strategies to fight the condition.
In Type 2 diabetes, which is far more common, the body produces insulin but doesn’t utilize it properly. Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 has been definitively linked to overeating and under-exercising.