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article imageRise in diabetes could be linked to children ‘avoiding germs’

By Tim Sandle     Mar 20, 2013 in Health
Scientists have put forward the theory that the rise in type 1 diabetes may be linked to reduced exposure to pathogens in early life.
The idea that a ‘cleaner’ society, resulting in children having less exposure to pathogens, being linked to a rise in type 1 diabetes, has been put forward by Dr. A. Abela and Professor S. Fava of the University of Malta. The theory was recently presented at a meeting of the Society for Endocrinology.
Their theory is part of the so-termed 'hygiene hypothesis', which suggests that encounters between the developing immune system and micro-organisms such as bacteria and parasites are part of human evolution and may therefore protect against the development of auto-immunity.
Type 1 diabetes is caused when the immune system destroys the cells of the pancreas that release insulin, leaving the patient unable to control his own blood sugar. Although the cause of type 1 diabetes is still not fully understood, it is believed to be of immunological origin.
The scientists, as their research note sets out, investigated whether markers of infectious disease burden could be linked to the local incidence of type 1 diabetes. For this review they used data from the World Health Organization (WHO) DiaMond Project (Multinational Project for Childhood Diabetes), to correlate type 1 diabetes incidence by country with mortality from infectious disease.
The review showed that Type 1 diabetes rates were highest in countries with low mortality from infectious disease. It is possible, from the findings, that the increasing global incidence of type 1 diabetes may be linked to lack of exposure to pathogens during early life.
The findings have been published in the journal Endocrine Abstracts.
The theory is at an early stage and more study is required to try to identify other environmental factors that may be linked to rising type 1 diabetes rates.
More about Diabetes, Type 1 diabetes, Germs, Bacteria, Children
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