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Enteroviruses that we commonly attribute to causing diarrhea and vomiting have now been linked to the development of type 1 diabetes mellitus in genetically susceptible children. In an attempt to clarify this relationship, researchers in the United Kingdom examined the pancreases of 72 children who had died soon after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes mellitus. Noel Morgan and his group at the Peninsula Medical School in the U.K. found evidence of Coxsackie B enterovirus (CVBs) infection in the beta cells of 60% of the pancreases examined. They also reported finding almost no evidence of CVB infection in beta cells from non-diabetic children. Additionally, 40% of adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus exhibited signs of enterovirus in their pancreatic beta cells.


Dr. Iain Frame, director for research at Diabetes UK, notes that researchers have known for some time that type 1 diabetes cannot be explained by genetics alone. With type 1 diabetes mellitus, the immune system essentially attacks the beta cells. Frame emphasizes that the effects of environmental triggers such as the CVB need to be determined to find out mechanisms whereby these trigger this auto-immune attack.


Researchers also hope that by determining exactly which strains of enterovirus contribute to beta cell degradation an appropriate diabetes vaccine can be developed.


As nurse educators we are responsible for keeping our students up to date regarding nursing interventions related to diseases such as type 1 diabetes mellitus. In view of this recent study we also need to be certain students give significant attention to reports of viral illnesses when they asses their patients, both pediatric and adult.


Full Text of Article: Richardson SJ, Willcox A, Bone AJ, Foulis AK, Morgan NG. The prevalence of enteroviral capsid protein vp1 immunostaining in pancreatic islets in human type 1 diabetes. Diabetologia. 2009, March 6 (Epub ahead of print).


Source: Biever C. March 6, 2009. Viral infection may prime some people for diabetes. NewScientist: Health. Available at Accessed March 26, 2009.