Researchers in the UK have uncovered new evidence that young diabetes patients appear in clusters – occurring over a small area and within a limited period of time. This type of ‘space-time clustering’ is consistent with previous instances of disease development possibly linked to infection.
The results of the study, which was carried out by experts at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, are published in the journal Diabetologia. Using data from a population-based register in Yorkshire, the team examined evidence of space-time clustering for diabetes patients under the age of 30.
Basing their research on place and time of diagnosis, significant ‘space-time clustering’ was confirmed for many children in two groups. One researcher commented that: “These findings suggest that infections may precipitate type 1 diabetes in a limited number of susceptible people. Other environmental factors are also likely to be involved.”
The study cannot, however, confirm that the environmental effects are direct, or whether they merely unmask latent incidences of the disease. The study raises interesting questions about infection as a cause of diabetes.