Childhood Gut Health Linked to Type 1 Diabetes

Elevated levels of enteroviruses may be linked to Type 1 diabetes.
Jessica Miley

Prolonged viruses in the gut could lead to Type 1 diabetes. New research from the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, shows an association between elevated levels of enteroviruses in the intestinal tracts of children and islet autoimmunity, a precursor to Type 1 diabetes


60 percent of newly diagnosed cases of Type 1 diabetes in Australia are in children and people younger than 25 years.

The collaborating researchers examined blood and feces collected from 93 children as part of the Australian Viruses In the Genetically at Risk study (VIGR), a prospective birth cohort of children with at least one first-degree relative with Type 1 diabetes.

Viruses abundant in children with a precursor to Type 1 Diabetes

The examination of fecal samples showed 129 viruses that were more prevalent in the guts of the children with islet autoimmunity versus their matched controls. Among the 129, five enterovirus-A viruses were significantly more abundant. 

More research is needed to determine which of these viruses is linked to islet autoimmunity and Type 1 diabetes. Interestingly blood samples did not show the same association between enteroviruses and islet autoimmunity. This is likely because the blood has the ability to clear the body of viruses faster than the gut.

Study could be a big step to better understanding of diabetes 

"These findings strengthen the model that enteroviruses can spread from the gut into a child's pancreas and trigger autoimmunity in the cells that regulate blood sugar," says Thomas Briese, Ph.D., associate professor of Epidemiology and CII lead on the project. 

"Knowing the virus types involved is a critical step toward developing new strategies for prevention and treatment of Type 1 diabetes."

The paper appears in the journal Scientific Reports. Scientific attention has turned towards our guts and digestive system lately with several new studies showing links between gut bacteria and other health issues.

A recent study has found that people with depression had low levels of the good bacteria known as Coprococcus and Dialister whether they took antidepressants or not.

The research was conducted by the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology and the Catholic University of Leuven. It examined medical tests and doctors records looking for links between depression and quality of life. 

Gut health linked to mental health

The study also examined the feces of more than 1,000 people enrolled in the Flemish Gut Flora Project. The initial findings could have major impacts on the treatment of mental health conditions. 


Lead researcher Jeroen Raes found that the presence of the bugs Faecalibacterium and Coprococcus were more common in the guts of those that reported having a high mental quality of life. 

Inversely those suffering depression had low levels of both Coprococcus and Dialister. The study doesn’t suggest that poor gut health causes depression, rather mental health issues can have serious effects on digestive and gut health. 

However, in follow up studies the researchers have discovered that gut microbes have some ability to talk to the human nervous system by producing neurotransmitters that are crucial for good mental health. 

Raes said their initial findings show that gut bacteria can produce the precursors for substances like dopamine and serotonin. Both of these chemicals have critical roles to play in the brain and imbalances of ether have previously been linked to depression.

Both diabetes and depression studies show that our bodies are operating much more interlinked than we might give it credit for. Thinking of your body as a whole system seems to be key to understanding more specific disorders.

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