The digestive tract hosts trillions of bacteria that interact with the immune system and can influence the balance between pro-inflammatory and regulatory immune responses. Recent studies suggest that alterations in the composition of the intestinal microbiota may be linked with the development of type 1 diabetes (T1D). Data from the biobreeding diabetes prone (BBDP) and the LEW1.WR1 models of T1D support the hypothesis that intestinal bacteria may be involved in early disease mechanisms. The data indicate that cross-talk between the gut microbiota and the innate immune system may be involved in islet destruction. Whether a causal link between intestinal microbiota and T1D exists, the identity of the bacteria and the mechanism whereby they promote the disease remain to be examined. A better understanding of the interplay between microbes and innate immune pathways in early disease stages holds promise for the design of immune interventions and disease prevention in genetically susceptible individuals.
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