Background: The penetrance of type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) in a genetically susceptible population is largely determined by environmental influences amongst which the human enteroviruses are prominent putative factors.
Aim/hypothesis: The aim of this study was to determine the occurrence of enterovirus RNA in serum of children with type 1 diabetes at onset and ICA-positive subjects in a population with low incidence of type 1 diabetes and high circulation of enteroviruses.
Subjects and methods: Serum samples were collected from children with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes (n = 34); islet autoantibody-positive (n = 32) and -negative (n = 31) first-degree relatives of type 1 diabetic patients; and control subjects (n = 194). Enteroviral RNA was assessed using a highly sensitive reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction method.
Results: The frequency of positive signals corresponding to enteroviral sequence amplifications were higher in newly diagnosed T1DM children (9/34, 26.5%) and islet autoantibody-positive first-degree relatives (5/32, 15.6%) than in their corresponding matched controls (2/68, 2.9%, p = 0.0007 and 0/64, 0.0%, p = 0.0033, respectively). The presence of enteroviral RNA appeared to be associated with severe diabetic ketoacidosis at onset (pH < 7.1, p = 0.0328) and high ICA titres ( > or = 20 JDF units, p < 0.05).
Conclusions: Despite there is a high circulation of enteroviruses and a low type 1 diabetes incidence in the Cuban population, the presence of enteroviral RNA is associated with type 1 diabetes and beta-cell autoimmunity and is similar to European countries in which this scenario is reversed.