MONDAY, May 24, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have discovered a link between infection with enteroviruses -- which can cause viral meningitis -- and diagnoses of type 1 diabetes in children.
It's not clear how the two might be linked, but the findings suggest that the existence of the virus could be a biomarker for diabetes in its early stages, lead researcher Antonio Toniolo, of the University of Insubria and Circle Hospital in Verese, Italy, said in a news release from the American Society for Microbiology.
Toniolo and his colleagues tested the blood of 112 children, ages 2 to 16, when they were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. They looked for signs of infection with enteroviruses, which can cause colds, cold sores, rashes and viral meningitis. In some cases, they cause no symptoms.
The researchers found genetic signs of enterovirus infection in 83 percent of the diabetic children, compared with just 7 percent of those in a group of healthy children.
Toniolo said the research could lead to a better understanding of the causes of type 1 diabetes and perhaps result in improved prevention and treatment.
With type 1 diabetes, the immune system destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas until the body can no longer produce insulin, requiring people to take insulin for the rest of their lives. Roughly 13,000 young people are diagnosed with the disease each year in the United States.
The findings were scheduled to be released Monday at the American Society for Microbiology annual meeting in San Diego.
For more on type 1 diabetes, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.