Young children who experience respiratory infections may be at increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes, according to the results of a study published online on July 1, 2013, in JAMA Pediatrics.
Researchers from the Institute of Diabetes Research in Germany enrolled 148 children at high risk for type 1 diabetes in a prospective cohort study and collected data on infections and assessments of islet autoimmunity during the participants’ first 3 years of life.
A total of 1245 infections were recorded in participants from birth until age 3. Children who experienced respiratory infections during the first 6 months of life were more than twice as likely to develop antibodies against pancreatic islet cells as were infection-free children. Children who developed respiratory infections between 6 months and 1 year of age had a risk of producing antibodies against islet cells 1.32 times that of those who did not develop infections. However, the results suggested no significant association between infections in the second year of life and the initiation of islet autoimmunity.
Although the researchers were not able to pinpoint a specific type of infectious agent that contributes to the increased risk of type 1 diabetes, their results suggest that respiratory infections, specifically acute rhinopharyngitis, play an important role.