Diabetic Voles

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Science  09 May 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5621, pp. 867
DOI: 10.1126/science.300.5621.867c

Infection with specific strains of virus and autoimmunity are each implicated in the destruction of insulin-producing β cells of the pancreas that leads, eventually, to the development of type 1 diabetes.

In a study of wild bank voles, Niklasson et al. found evidence for a direct association between type 1 diabetes and infection by a novel picorna virus. Although no diabetes could be detected in recently captured voles, one-third of those kept in captivity developed elevated blood glucose levels and showed destruction of β cells by 1 month. Diabetic animals developed elevated antibodies to the new virus, as well as to proteins familiar as potential autoimmune targets in human diabetes. Inoculation of nondiabetic voles with the virus correlated with the onset of varying degrees of β cell destruction and viral presence in the pancreatic islets, suggesting a direct role for the virus in the disease. A preliminary study of children with type 1 diabetes also revealed a modest increase in antibodies to the same picorna virus, suggesting that it might contribute to some cases of human type 1 diabetes, possibly as a result of zoonosis from this rodent reservoir.—SJS

Exp. Diabesity Res. 4, 35 (2003).

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