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Viruses Linked to Type 1 Diabetes in High-Risk Children

“These results will help to find new ways to delay–and hopefully prevent–Type 1 diabetes from developing in some children.”
— Bill Hagopian

Scientists have long suspected that viruses play a role in the development of Type 1 diabetes (T1D), although evidence has not been consistent enough to show a connection. Until now.

The Hagopian lab at the Pacific Northwest Research Institute (PNRI) is part of a groundbreaking international study following more than 8,000 children with increased genetic risk for developing T1D, called the TEDDY Study. New results from the study show that prolonged viral infections were associated with the development of T1D. The findings were recently published in Nature Medicine.


The study found that enteroviruses are to blame. They are a common type of virus, sometimes causing fever, sore throat, rash or nausea. Researchers were surprised to find that it was a prolonged infection of more than 30 days, rather than a short infection, that was associated with the increased risk of developing T1D.

Dr. Hagopian
William Hagopian, MD, PhD of PNRI

“For years we’ve had a suspicion that viruses are linked to Type 1 diabetes, but until now the evidence has not been strong enough to make the link,” said co-author of the paper, William Hagopian, MD, PhD and director of diabetes research at PNRI. “These results will help to find new ways to delay – and hopefully prevent – Type 1 diabetes from developing in some children.”

Diabetes Research at PNRI

PNRI researchers are leaders in exploring what triggers and protects against T1D. Not everyone with an underlying increased genetic risk develops the disease. Researchers at PNRI believe that answers lie in better understanding the relationship between genetic risk and the environment. Earlier this year, the Hagopian lab published research on new screening methods for Type 1 diabetes.

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