Enteroviruses Linked To Development of Type 1 Diabetes in Children

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Hanna Honkanen PhD
University of Tampere.

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The association between enteroviruses and type 1 diabetes has been suggested for long and analyzed in several studies. However, only few studies have been able to study this association at the time when the disease process starts, which happens several months or years before type 1 diabetes is diagnosed.

Our study made this possible since it was based on a large cohort of children who were followed from birth and samples were collected already before the disease process had started (prospective DIPP-study in Finland). Enterovirus infections were detected by analyzing the presence of viral nucleic acids in longitudinal stool sample series. Infections were found more frequently in case children who developed islet autoantibodies compared to control children. This excess was detected several months before islet autoimmunity appeared. This study is the largest such study carried out so far. The results suggest that enterovirus infections may contribute to the initiation of the disease process that eventually leads to type 1 diabetes.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: This is the first time that detection of enteroviruses in stool samples of young children was found to be associated with initiation of beta-cell damaging process. In addition, there seems to be a several months’ time lag between the infection and the initiation of the disease process. The long time lag support slowly operating mechanisms in virus-induced autoimmunity.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: The mechanism of the enterovirus-induced diabetes are still not known in detail and should be further studied. It is known that these viruses can be detected in the pancreas of type 1 diabetic patients, and that they locate in insulin producing cells. However, it is not known how the virus could damage these cells. These questions are important for possible development of preventive treatments against the disease. For example, enterovirus vaccines are known to be effective and safe, making them an attractive as possible future intervention strategy.

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.


Honkanen, H., Oikarinen, S., Nurminen, N. et al. Diabetologia (2017). doi:10.1007/s00125-016-4177-z

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