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Keywords:

  • aetiology;
  • childhood;
  • enterovirus;
  • Type 1 diabetes mellitus

Summary

Aims This study was designed to assess further the possible links between enterovirus infection and Type 1 diabetes mellitus (DM).

Methods Sera from 110 children in the age range 0–15 years was obtained shortly after the diagnosis of Type 1 DM, in paediatric centres throughout the UK. They were tested for the presence of enteroviral sequences by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) of the 5′ nontranslated region (5′ NTR). One hundred and eighty-two controls tested were matched for age, geographical location and time of year.

Results A significantly greater number of diabetic children (27% vs. 4.9%, P <0.005) had evidence of enteroviral RNA sequences. Proportionally, more younger children were enterovirus PCR positive, thus eight out of 20 children aged ≤2 years were enterovirus PCR positive. Sequence analysis showed that there was considerable variation in the sequences detected, although all appeared to be of the coxsackie/echovirus type.

Conclusion This study re-emphasizes that a link exists between enteroviral infection and the onset of Type 1 DM, particularly at a very early age, and suggests that these viruses are aetiologically important in diabetes in a significant proportion of children.