Research has found that a common family of viruses (enteroviruses), which usually cause the common cold or diarrhoea, may play an important role in triggering the development of Type 1 diabetes.
Researchers from the Peninsula Medical School in south west England, the University of Brighton and the Department of Pathology at Glasgow Royal Infirmary looked at 72 pancreases from people who had Type 1 diabetes and found signs of enteroviruses in 60 per cent.
Although genetics is known to play a role in a person's risk of developing Type 1 diabetes, environmental factors including viruses have been considered for some time.
A big step forward
“This research is a big step forward in our understanding of potential triggers for Type 1 diabetes," said Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Diabetes UK.
“We've known for some time that Type 1 diabetes cannot be explained by genetics alone and that other environmental triggers may also play a part.
"This research has identified the presence of a type of virus in pancreatic beta cells of a proportion of people who had Type 1 diabetes that appears to be rare in people without the condition.
Moving closer to preventing Type 1 diabetes
“The next steps to identify the viruses and find out what they are doing to the infected beta cells will be hugely exciting and will take us a step closer to preventing Type 1 diabetes.”
The study is published in the journal 'Diabetologia'.