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Children who have had enterovirus infection are around 50 per cent more likely to develop type 1 diabetes, a new study has warned. The study by Dr Tsai Chung-Li, China Medical University, Taiwan, and colleagues investigated the link between enterovirus (EV) infection and subsequent type 1 diabetes.

Enteroviruses are a group of viruses that include the polioviruses and can cause a range of symptoms from mild cold-like symptoms, to illnesses with fever and rashes to neurologic problems.

Researchers found that overall incidence of type 1 diabetes was higher in the EV-infected children than in the non-EV infected group (5.73 vs 3.89 per 100,000 people per year, showing a 48 per cent increased incidence rate in EV-infected versus non-EV-infected children).

Hazard ratios of type 1 diabetes increased with age at diagnosis of EV infection, with a more than doubling of the risk of type 1 diabetes (2.18 times increased risk) for children aged over 10 years at entry.

No relationship of allergic rhinitis or bronchial asthma to type 1 diabetes was found.

The authors pointed out that despite countries such as Finland and Sweden having the highest incidence of type 1 diabetes worldwide, they are thought to have low background rates of enterovirus infection, suggesting that genetic factors are a large component of the high type 1 diabetes rates in those countries.

“Regions such as Africa, Asia, South America have a low but increasing incidence of type 1 diabetes and high prevalence of enterovirus infection; environmental factors like enterovirus infection may play a vital role in increasing incidence in these regions,” researchers said.

The study was published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes).