Calls have been made for the development of a vaccine against herpesviruses after a new study found that the viruses could increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Researchers identified that two of the most common herpesviruses could lead to an impaired glucose metabolism, raising the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

There are eight known types of herpesviruses, all of which cause lifelong infections. Historically, it was only thought that viruses played a role in the development of type 1 diabetes.

Around 9.3% of the people across the world have type 2 diabetes. The condition is found to be more common in people with pre-diabetes compared to those with normal glucose tolerance.

The research, led by Dr Tim Woelfle at Ludwig-Maximilians University and Helmholtz Munich, Germany, looked at the health data for 1,967 people from the period 2006-2008 to 2013-2014.

The team said: “Our study suggested that while (pre)diabetes incidence was primarily explained by age, BMI, cholesterol and fasting glucose, both HSV2 and CMV [viruses] added additional complementary risk information, despite high viral prevalence and co-occurrence.”

It is still not yet understood the role these viruses play in the development of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. It could be that they modulate the immune system which then impacts the hormonal system.

The researchers added: “These results highlight the link between viruses and (pre)diabetes, and the need for more research evaluating public health viral prevention strategies, possibly including the development of effective vaccines against herpesviruses.”

The study has been published in Diabetologia.

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