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Virus May Cause Type 1 Diabetes

Researchers have found a virus in the pancreas of patients with type 1 diabetes. The discovery may offer the potential for both treatment and a vaccine.

For many years it has been suspected that a virus is a possible cause of type 1 diabetes. A new study has found a virus present in the pancreas of individuals who recently have been diagnosed with this type of diabetes.

The study was headed by Professor Knut Dahl-Jørgensen at the Faculty of Medicine, UiO, in collaboration with Lars Krogvold, research fellow at UiO and consultant paediatrician at Oslo University Hospital.

The researchers identified viral components in the insulin-producing cells in the islets of Langerhans. The islets of Langerhans are hormone-producing groups of cells in the pancreas. The virus that has been detected is in the group of enteroviruses.

Professor Dahl-Jørgensen explains: “This is a type of virus that occurs frequently among the population. It can cause colds and stomach bugs but also serious infections in the brain and heart, for example”.

Enterovirus is normally found in the intestines and respiratory tract. In individuals with a genetic predisposition the virus has the ability to cause chronic infections.

“It is this type of infection that we have now identified in the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas”, says Dahl-Jørgensen.

Unlike type 2 diabetes, it is not possible to regulate this form of diabetes by exercise or changes in diet. Only 29 percent of patients achieve the recommended treatment goals that prevent complications.