~ Infections Could Trigger Diabetes

Daily Post, 07-05-06

ENVIRONMENTAL factors such as common infections may be a trigger for diabetes in children and young adults, according to new research.

The study, the largest of its kind, analysed information from more than 4,000 people aged 0 to 29 diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in Yorkshire over a 25-year period.

A pattern emerged where "clusters" of cases were found at different places and time intervals for 10 to 19 - year- olds .

There were 6% to 7% more cases of Type 1 diabetes found in 10 to 19-year-olds in the clusters than would have been expected by chance.

Females with the condition were more likely to occur in clusters, with 7% to 14% more cases than expected found in age groups 10 to 19.

This pattern, which experts call "space-time clustering", is typical of conditions triggered by infections.

Conditions caused by more constant environmental factors produce clusters over a much longer time period.

About 250,000 people in the UK have Type 1 diabetes, and the number of cases in children is rising by 3% each year.

It usually appears before the age of 40.

The study authors, from Newcastle and Leeds Universities and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, carried out sophisticated statistical analysis using information on the times and places where the children and young adults were dia gnosed.

It has previously been suggested that infections are linked to the development of Type 1 diabetes in children who are genetically susceptible to certain environmental trigg ers.

Lead study author Dr Richard McNally, of Newcastle University's School of Clinical Medical Sciences (Child Health), said: "This research brings us closer to understanding more about Type 1 diabetes.

"However, it's just one piece in the jigsaw and much more research is needed before we can identify which infections may be to blame and thus inform advice on preventative measures.

"The condition is likely to be caused by an interplay of factors, of which infections are just one element."

Dr Richard Feltbower, co-researcher of the Paediatric Epidemiology Group at the University of Leeds, said:

"The clusters may occur as a result of infections precipitating the condition in already pre-disposed individuals . "

Simon O'Neill, director of care and policy at Diabetes UK, said: This research reinforces the idea that common infections and environmental factors also play a part."

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