Washington D.C : Newborns, who catch a cold and flu before they reach the six-month mark, are more susceptible to type 1 diabetes in adulthood, according to a recent study.
The Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen scientists, headed by Prof. Dr. Anette-Gabriele Ziegler, examined anonymized data from almost 300,000 children born in Bavaria between 2005 and 2007.
They systematically evaluated all available data on infections with respect to the later development of type 1 diabetes. The infections were broken down according to the localization of the symptoms (such as dermal, eye, gastrointestinal or respiratory infections), the causes (bacterial, viral or mycoses) and the age (quarter-yearly from birth).
First author Dr. Andreas Beyerlein said that the findings show that viral respiratory tract disorders during the first six months of life significantly increase the risk of children developing type 1 diabetes. Infections that occurred later or that involved other organs were not associated with a significantly higher risk.
For the researchers, these findings are a further piece in the puzzle of understanding how type 1 diabetes develops, with the interaction of genetic and environmental factors still largely unclear.
Lead scientist Ziegler added that the research is also consistent with other results that they have published based on data from children with increased familial risk, which already suggested that the first half year of life is crucial for the development of the immune system and of autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes.
In the future the scientists want to determine whether there is actually a causal relationship and if yes, exactly which pathogens are involved and how they trigger this effect. This could then serve as a basis for attempting to develop an appropriate vaccine.
The study is published in JAMA.