Viruses and diabetes

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2002 Apr;958:7-25. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2002.tb02943.x.


Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) is a multifactorial disease. Besides a genetic predisposition environmental factors have been implicated in the pathogenesis of beta cell destruction. Among these environmental factors viruses have been the focus of many studies. Some viruses are diabetogenic in animals, and others have been implicated as triggers in human IDDM by temporal and geographical association between IDDM and viral infections, serological evidence of infection in recently diagnosed diabetic patients, and the isolation of viruses from the pancreas of affected individuals. We discuss possible pathomechanisms of viral infections in beta cell destruction and review the studies on involvement of enteroviruses, retroviruses, rubella viruses, cytomegaloviruses, and Epstein-Barr viruses in human IDDM. We also report on studies of diabetogenic viruses in animal models as well as on viral infections protecting from IDDM. Some of the difficulties in linking viral infections to IDDM will be illustrated with data from a transgenic mouse model in which IDDM can be precipitated by infections with certain strains of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV). Emerging treatment concepts that do not rely on defining the initiating autoantigens but involve self-reactive regulatory lymphocytes such as oral antigen administration, as well as DNA vaccines, will be discussed briefly.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Viruses / immunology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / immunology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / pathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / prevention & control
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / virology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / immunology
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Islets of Langerhans / immunology
  • Islets of Langerhans / pathology
  • RNA Viruses / immunology*
  • Viral Vaccines / immunology


  • Viral Vaccines
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase