Type 1 diabetes has a basis in a certain combination of genes. However, certain environmental factors are necessary to trigger the development of this disease. One of these environmental triggers are viruses. What are some viral triggers to type 1 diabetes?
When a virus enters the body, the body produces antibodies to fight the threat. If the virus has the same antigens as the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, antibodies may turn and attack these necessary cells as well. There is also theories that the viruses themselves attack cells in the pancreas.
It could take years before the antibodies cause enough damage for the pancreas to stop producing insulin, which makes it harder for scientists to pin down any one virus that could be more likely to trigger the process of developing type 1 diabetes. However, there are a few likely viruses thought to be the most likely viral triggers.
Enteroviruses. Enteroviruses are believed to be the most likely viral trigger for type 1 diabetes. Enteroviruses are very common, coming in second only to common cold viruses. There are currently more than 90 known enteroviruses. Though some can cause severe issues, most cases of these viruses cause symptoms that appear like a cold or flu, or even go undetected. Illnesses appear more frequently in summer and fall.
The enteroviruses are made up of ribonucleic acid, or RNA, and protein. They can mutate easily and are passed as effortlessly as the common cold.
Measles, Mumps, Rubella. Any one or all of these three diseases have been believed to be a viral trigger for type 1 diabetes, with mumps being the most likely. However, with the vaccination against these being widely used, the incidence of type 1 diabetes has not decreased, but increased in the last fifty years.
The MMR vaccine itself has been theorized to be a trigger, but according to Consumer Reports Health, studies have shown the vaccine does not trigger type 1 diabetes. More studies should be made in this area, as the widespread use of this vaccine over the years could account for the increase in cases of this type of diabetes.
Rotavirus. Rotavirus has long been believed to be a possible viral trigger to type 1 diabetes, but there needs to be more research. Scientists are unsure if proteins in the virus directly attack the cells in the pancreas, or if it is the antibodies that do the damage.
The previous rotavirus vaccine caused scientists to wonder if the virus itself attacks the cells in the pancreas. If this is the case, a vaccine that protected against the disease would be beneficial not only to prevent the infection, but to prevent those cases where rotavirus could be a viral trigger. But if the antibodies created in response to a rotavirus infection are what attacks the pancreas, then a vaccine would become a potential trigger in itself. If this is the case, this information could be applied to the MMR vaccine as well.
Viral Triggers to Type 1 Diabetes. There are several other viruses and diseases that may trigger type 1 diabetes, but those discussed above seem the most plausible. However, any infection that affects the pancreas may also lead to the development of type 1 diabetes. Although there are other environmental factors to consider, scientists are putting emphasis on studying viral triggers to type 1 diabetes.
THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT MEANT TO DIAGNOSE OR TREAT ANY CONDITION.
van der Werf N, et al.; Viral infections as potential triggers of type 1 diabetes; Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Review, PubMed
John F. Modlin, M.D.; Enterovirus Deja Vu; The New England Journal of Medicine
Consumer Reports Health.org; Is the MMR vaccine safe?