type 1 diabetes, virus, Trojan horse, enterovirus, insulin sacs

Is Type 1 Diabetes Caused by a Virus?

What is type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas no longer creates insulin. Insulin is crucial to converting blood sugar into energy for the body to use. Type 1 is usually diagnosed in childhood, and people with type 1 need to take insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels.


What are the causes of type 1?

Researchers are still trying to get to the bottom of the causes of type 1 diabetes. Possible factors that cause type 1 include:

  • Viral or bacterial infection
  • Chemical toxins in food
  • A disturbance of the microorganisms in the gut
  • An autoimmune reaction to an unidentified factor
  • A family history of type 1
  • Genetics

New research on type 1 and viruses

New research points to viruses causing type 1 – in a sneaky way. A new study published in Diabetologia explains the new theory.

The immune system may be destroying the pancreas cells in order to destroy a virus that’s gotten into them undercover.

Dr. Sarah Richardson and her team at the University of Exeter used immunofluorescence and electron microscopes to observe how those with type 1 were affected compared to those without type 1. They found that viruses (such as the enterovirus) attack insulin sacs that deliver insulin out of the beta cells of the pancreas.

These sacs contain small molecules of insulin that mature in the sac. Later, the beta cell releases them. These insulin-carrying sacs are then reused.


Viruses use insulin sacs like a Trojan horse

The researchers think that a virus may be hopping a ride in these insulin sacs into the beta cells. Then the virus replicates inside the beta cells. The body’s immune system attacks the virus by attacking the beta cells of the pancreas.

Is type 1 diabetes caused by a virus? This study points to yes, and provides a new view on how type 1 could develop.