Institute of Diabetes Research, Helmholtz Zentrum München and Forschergruppe Diabetes der Technischen Universität München, Munich, Germany
MedicalResearch.com What are the main findings of the study?
Dr. Beyerlein: We identified respiratory infections in early childhood, especially in the first year of life, as a risk factor for islet autoimmunity, which is known as a precursor of type 1 diabetes (T1D). We also found some evidence for short term effects of infectious events on development of autoimmunity.
MedicalResearch.com Were any of the findings unexpected?
Dr. Beyerlein: It was kind of surprising that particularly respiratory infections came out as a risk factor for autoimmunity, as previous studies had rather pointed to an important role of gastrointestinal infections in this context.
MedicalResearch.com What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Beyerlein: Clinical implications could be to provide therapy to reduce early respiratory infections and inflammatory responses associated with these infections in high-risk subgroups. From the patients’ perspective, parents of high-risk children might possibly decrease their children’s T1D risk by reducing exposure to respiratory infections in very early life.
MedicalResearch.com What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Beyerlein: Future research might focus on prevention of early respiratory infections in children with high T1D risk and on the detection of specific infectious agents causing autoimmunity. Vaccination strategies against enterovirus infections are already under development. Anti-inflammatory agents during critical time windows in children with genetic susceptibility for type 1 diabetes may be another therapeutic possibility.
Respiratory Infections in Early Life and the Development of Islet Autoimmunity in Children at Increased Type 1 Diabetes Risk Evidence From the BABYDIET Study
Beyerlein A, Wehweck F, Ziegler AG, Pflueger M.
JAMA Pediatr. 2013 Jul 1. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.158. [Epub ahead of print]