Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) is a multi-factorial immune-mediated disease characterized by the autoimmune destruction of insulin-producing pancreatic islet beta cells in genetically susceptible individuals. Epidemiological evidence has also documented the constant rise in the incidence of T1DM worldwide, with viral infections representing one of the candidate environmental risk factors identified by several independent studies. In fact, epidemiological data showed that T1DM incidence increases after epidemics due to enteroviruses and that enteroviral RNA can be detected in the blood of >50% of T1DM patients at the time of disease onset. Furthermore, both in-vitro and ex-vivo studies have shown that viruses can infect pancreatic beta cells with consequent effects ranging from functional damage to cell death.
© 2011 The Authors. Clinical and Experimental Immunology © 2011 British Society for Immunology.