Chapter II. Prevention

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Rev Diabet Stud, 2012, 9(4):260-271 DOI 10.1900/RDS.2012.9.260

Virus Infections as Potential Targets of Preventive Treatments for Type 1 Diabetes

Noora Nurminen1, Sami Oikarinen1, Heikki Hyöty1,2

1Department of Virology, School of Medicine, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland
2Fimlab Laboratories, Pirkanmaa Hospital District, Tampere, Finland
Address correspondence to: Heikki Hyoty, Department of Virology, School of Medicine, University of Tampere, Biokatu 10, 33520 Tampere, Finland, e-mail:

Manuscript submitted November 28, 2012; resubmitted January 21, 2013; accepted January 28, 2013.

Keywords: type 1 diabetes, enterovirus, coxsackie B virus, pathogenesis, environment, virus, infection


Environmental factors play an important role in the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes, and are attractive targets for preventive interventions. Several studies have shown that viruses can cause diabetes in animals, indicating their potential as candidates for environmental triggering agents. However, human studies have been hampered by the complex nature of the disease pathogenesis, leaving the question of viral etiology unanswered. Significant progress has recently been made in this field by searching for viruses within pancreatic tissue samples, and by carrying out prospective studies. Consequently, there is increasing evidence for a group of enteroviruses acting as possible environmental key triggers. In past studies, these viruses have been linked to type 1 diabetes. Recent studies have shown that they exert tropism to pancreatic islets, and that they are associated with the start of the beta-cell damaging process. Also, polymorphisms of the gene coding for the innate immune system sensor for enteroviruses (IFIH1) were found to modulate the risk of diabetes. Based on these findings, interest in the possible development of vaccines against these viruses has increased. However, even if enterovirus vaccines (polio vaccines) are effective and safe, we currently lack necessary information for the development of a vaccine against diabetogenic enteroviruses, e.g. regarding the identification of their specific serotypes and the causal relationship between these viruses and diabetes initiation. Ongoing research projects are currently addressing these questions, and will hopefully increase the consensus in this field. Also, new sequencing technologies will provide additional information about the whole virome, which could enable the discovery of new candidate viruses.

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