A vaccine has the potential to prevent a significant number of cases of type 1 diabetes.
Viral infections have long been suspected of being the cause of diabetes. Now for the first time, researchers identified the type of enterovirus associated with the disease. This discovery opens up new possibilities for future research aimed at developing a vaccine against type 1 diabetes.
”The research results show that members of the group B coxsackieviruses are associated with the risk of type 1 diabetes while the other enterovirus types tested did not show such connection,” says Heikki Hyöty, professor of virology at the University of Tampere, Finland.
Hyöty is the director of the DIPP and VirDiab research projects that investigate the identification of viruses associated with diabetes. The research results were published in October in Diabetes, a scientific journal published by the American Diabetes Association.
B Coxsackie viruses found in the pancreas of diabetes patients
Type 1 diabetes is caused by the destruction of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
”These results agree with previous results which show that B coxsackie viruses can be found in the pancreas of diabetes patients and that they cause diabetes in animals,” Hyöty says.
”This discovery paves the way for further studies aiming at developing a vaccine to prevent type 1 diabetes. Because only six enteroviruses belong to the group of B coxsackie viruses, it may be possible to include all of them in the same vaccine.”
Another disease caused by enteroviruses is polio against which an efficient vaccine containing three types of the virus is already available.
Further studies under way
A vaccine preventing diabetes would clearly be needed because no preventive treatments are currently available for type 1 diabetes.
“Based on these findings, it is estimated that such a vaccine could have the potential to prevent a significant proportion of new cases of type 1 diabetes. Further studies are already under way to clarify the mechanisms of how these viruses start the type 1 diabetes process and to find the optimal composition of the vaccine,” professor Hyöty says.
Currently, there are 40,000 diabetes patients in Finland and 15 million worldwide. Finland has the world’s highest prevalence of type 1 diabetes.
The Type 1 Diabetes Prediction and Prevention Study (DIPP) is a joint effort of the universities of Tampere, Oulu and Turku in Finland. The study follows children with an increased genetic risk for type 1 diabetes from birth. In total, 12,000 children have been included in the follow-up which will continue until each child reaches the age of 15 years or develops type 1 diabetes. So far, almost 300 children have been diagnosed with diabetes and many more have developed the subclinical autoimmune process preceding the disease. The DIPP Study has received funding from multiple sources, including the European Commission, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Academy of Finland.
The VirDiab study investigates the infections suffered by children who have recently been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Five European countries participate in the study which has been financed by, among others, the European Commission.
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) is the leading international organisation funding research on type 1 diabetes. The goal of the foundation is to reduce the impact of type 1 diabetes on people’s lives and to reduce the number of new cases of the disease. JRDF is currently spending 530 million USD on scientific research in 17 countries. In 2012, JRDF funded diabetes research with more than 110 million USD. For more information, please visit jrdf.org.