Animal infection may trigger diabetes

May 1, 2013 by Harriet Jarlett
Animal infection may trigger diabetes

Type 1 diabetes may be triggered by an infectious disease carried by animals, say scientists.

The researchers wanted to better understand previous research showing cases of peak in certain years.

The new study, published in PLoS ONE, found that not only did diabetes cases vary in frequency over a six year cycle, they also peaked in certain seasons.

The scientists suggest that this pattern of both short and long term cycles might be caused by an infection carried by animals, which triggers diabetes in those already genetically predisposed.

'What we knew from previous studies is that there are seasonal peaks of type 1 diabetes, which ties in with the idea of an . Although, it's difficult to be sure what that agent could be,' says Dr Colin Muirhead, of Newcastle University, who led the study.

A shorter, with more cases in winter could be because at certain times of the year an infection is more easily being passed between people, or from animals to a people.

While the trend for cases to peak during winter was noted, it wasn't seen every year. But instead of weakening the argument, Muirhead thinks this strengthens it.

'Diseases don't occur at the same strength every year. Influenza shows us that, yes, you do get a seasonal peak, but it doesn't occur at the same time, or to the same extent, every year. Type 1 diabetes shows a very similar pattern.'

Muirhead and colleagues believe longer cycles suggest the infection may be carried by a , such as a .

'The multiannual patterns tell us that there's something else going on. If it were a purely human phenomenon, we wouldn't expect to see such a pattern,' says Professor Mike Begon, from the University of Liverpool, who co-authored the study.

'It might not be a virus from an animal but what else in the environment has peaks every few years? Weather doesn't do that, don't. It tends to be things like wildlife populations and their pathogens, but we don't know for certain.'

The team also found that more cases of type 1 diabetes occurred between the ages of five and 14, which suggests children under five who are exposed to the triggering infection might develop antibodies that protect against diabetes.

Diabetes is an autoimmune disease, which means it causes the body to react as it would to an infection. But, with an autoimmune disease the immune response is turned against the body itself.

The next stage is to identify what infections may be involved so more work can be done to prevent exposure and improve treatment.

Explore further: Study finds link between flu virus and diabetes onset

More information: Muirhead, C. et al. (2013) How Do Childhood Diagnoses of Type 1 Diabetes Cluster in Time? PLoS ONE 8(4): e60489. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060489

Related Stories

Study finds link between flu virus and diabetes onset

December 4, 2012

Researchers in Italy have discovered that the flu virus could contribute to the onset of diabetes. This finding could help scientists uncover a way to prevent some forms of this condition. The study was funded in part by ...

1 in 10 adults could have diabetes by 2030

November 14, 2011

(AP) -- The International Diabetes Federation predicts that at least one in 10 adults could have diabetes by 2030, according to its latest statistics.

Low vitamin D levels may increase risk of Type 1 diabetes

February 4, 2013

Having adequate levels of vitamin D during young adulthood may reduce the risk of adult-onset type 1 diabetes by as much as 50%, according to researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). The findings, if confirmed ...

Recommended for you

How does friendly fire happen in the pancreas?

October 21, 2016

In type 1 diabetes, the body attacks its own insulin-producing cells. Scientists at Helmholtz Zentrum München, partner in the German Center for Diabetes Research, and their colleagues at Technical University of Munich have ...

Diabetes opens floodgates to fructose

October 11, 2016

Fructose, once seen as diabetics' alternative to glucose, is fast-tracked to the liver in diabetic mice and contributes to metabolic diseases, according to new research from Harvard University.

Type 2 diabetes and obesity—what do we really know?

October 6, 2016

Social and economic factors have led to a dramatic rise in type 2 diabetes and obesity around the world. In a review in Science, Mark McCarthy, professor at the University of Oxford, UK, and Paul Franks, professor at Lund ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.