Type 1 diabetes linked to animal infection

Wed, 01 May 2013
An infectious disease carried by animals may trigger the development of type 1 diabetes, according to scientists in the UK.

Dr Colin Muirhead, of Newcastle University, and colleagues conducted a study to better understand previous research showing cases of type 1 diabetes peaking in certain years.

Over a six year cycle, they found that cases not only varied in frequency but also peaked in certain seasons.

According to the scientists, this pattern of both short and long-term cycles could be caused by an infection carried by a wild animal, which triggers diabetes type 1 in those already genetically predisposed to the disease.

"What we knew from previous studies is that there are seasonal peaks of type 1 diabetes, which ties in with the idea of an infectious agent. Although, it's difficult to be sure what that agent could be," Dr Muirhead said.

The researchers noted an increase in new cases of type 1 diabetes during the winter months of some years, which they said could be because infections are more easily passed between people or from animals to people during this season.

Co-author of the study, Professor Mike Begon, from the University of Liverpool, commented: "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, environmental factors don't. It tends to be things like wildlife populations and their pathogens, but we don't know for certain."

The team, whose findings are published in journal PLOS ONE, added that the next stage of their research is to identify what infections might be involved in order to help prevent exposure and improve treatment.
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