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Infections link with diabetes, suggests biggest study yet

A major study has added weight to the theory that environmental factors such as common infections may be a trigger for diabetes in children and young adults.

The study, the biggest of its kind, analysed information from a register of over 4,000 people aged 0-29 years old diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes over a 25-year period. The findings for young adults have not been published before.

A quarter of a million people in the UK have Type 1 diabetes, and the number of cases in children is rising by three per cent each year. It develops if the body is unable to produce any insulin and usually appears before the age of 40.

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

A pattern emerged where 'clusters' of cases were found at different geographical locations and time intervals for 10-19 year olds. There were six to seven per cent more cases of Type 1 diabetes found in 10-19 year olds in the clusters than would have been expected by chance.

Females with the condition were more likely to occur in clusters with seven to 14 per cent more cases than expected found in young girls and women aged 10-19 years.

This pattern, which experts call 'space-time clustering', is typical of conditions triggered by infections. Conditions caused by more constant environmental factors produce clusters of cases in one place over a much longer time period.

The results are published in the academic journal Diabetologia and should help towards understanding more about the causes of Type 1 diabetes.

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 triggers.

Lead study author, Dr Richa
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Contact: Dr. Richard McNally
Richard.McNally@newcastle.ac.uk
01-912-023-029
University of Newcastle upon Tyne
3-Jul-2006


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