Cold virus in kids could trigger type 1 diabetes

Kim LaCapria - Author
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Jun. 15 2013, Updated 11:18 p.m. ET

This is a little scary- a spike in type 1 diabetes in very young children could be in part due to a strain of the common cold.

An article posted in BMJ Online First says kids with type 1 diabetes are nearly ten times more likely to have been infected with enterovirus strains than children who have not been. A link has long been suspected, and Maria E. Craig, PhD, of the University of New South Wales in Sydney commented on the findings:

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“We saw a very strong association between enterovirus infection and type 1 diabetes,.. Obviously studies like the ones we looked at cannot prove cause and effect, but the findings make a strong case for this association.”

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Children with symptoms of pre-diabetes were found to be three times as likely to have been infected with enterovirus. Also linked to the findings is what is known as the “hygiene hypothesis,” in which improved sanitization methods are thought to have some possible negative health consequences:

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The thinking is that improved hygiene has left babies more vulnerable to assaults from viruses like enterovirus because mothers today pass on fewer protective antibodies than were passed on by past generations of mothers.

If enteroviruses play a big role in type 1 diabetes, the so-called “hygiene hypothesis” could explain why disease rates have not risen in poorer, less industrialized countries, [Virologist Didier Hober, MD, PhD, of France’s University Lille stated.]

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Early exposure to common allergens such as gluten and cow’s milk has also been cited in possibly affected increased rates of type 1 diabetes in children.

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