Early Childhood Respiratory Infections a Potential Risk Factor for Type 1 Diabetes

Respiratory infections experienced in early childhood may be connected to the development of type 1 diabetes mellitus or T1D. This is according to a study by researchers in Munich, Germany. The results of the study are published on JAMA Pediatrics.

Type 1 diabetes mellitus is a form of diabetes where the body develops an autoimmune response and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. The lack of insulin in the body eventually leads to increased glucose levels in urine and the bloodstream. The occurrence of T1D has recently increased worldwide, although many researchers and experts remain unsure of what causes it. Many things still require more study regarding type 1 diabetes mellitus. But one factor that researchers are looking into is the incidence of early infections during infancy.

Andreas Beyerlein, Ph.D, a researcher from the Institute of Diabetes Research in Munich, Germany and colleagues tried to look into this. They wanted to determine whether early or short-term exposure to bouts of infection and fever during the first three years of life might be a factor in the persistent islet autoimmunity or the development of antibodies fighting against the islet cells in the pancreas among children.

The study involved 148 children at high risk for T1D with 1,245 documented infectious events during their first three years of life. According to the study, respiratory infections experienced during the first six months of life was linked to an increased hazard ratio of islet autoantibody seroconversion. This also applies to infections occurring from ages six months to almost 12 months. During the second year of life, there was no association seen between any infectious events and type 1 diabetes mellitus risk.

“Our study identified respiratory infections in early childhood, especially in the first year of life, as a risk factor for the development of T1D. We also found some evidence for short-term effects of infectious events on development of autoimmunity, while cumulative exposure alone seemed not to be causative,” the authors not on their findings.

While respiratory infections were considered as potential risk factors, the researchers were not able to identify a single infectious agent that might be a direct link to the development of T1D. The study, the authors noted, highlighted the potential role that infections may have on the development of type 1 diabetes mellitus. If proven by further studies, it is possible to advise early vaccination against certain infectious agents as a potential prevention strategy for T1D.

Source: American Medical Association (AMA) (2013, July 1). Early childhood respiratory infections may be potential risk factor for type 1 diabetes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 9, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130701163733.htm
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