Aims/hypothesis: Enterovirus (e.g. Coxsackie B virus serotypes [CVBs]) infections may be associated with development of type 1 diabetes. Studies conducted in several European countries have, however, shown an inverse correlation between the incidence of type 1 diabetes and the prevalence of enterovirus infections. These findings could in part be explained by an extension of the poliovirus hypothesis, suggesting that the absence of maternally transferred antibodies protecting offspring from early infection increases the risk for diabetes development. Experimental evidence supporting this hypothesis in type 1 diabetes is, however, lacking. As maternally transferred protection from infection is a crucial component of the extended poliovirus hypothesis, we here tested the hypothesis that previously infected females transfer protection against infection and diabetes to offspring.
Methods: The induction of CVB-specific maternal antibodies and transfer of protection from virus infection, replication and development of virus-induced diabetes to offspring was assessed using NOD and Socs1-transgenic NOD mice.
Results: Infected mice produced neutralising antibodies to CVB. Offspring from infected females were positive for neutralising antibodies and were strongly protected from both infection and experimental diabetes.
Conclusions/interpretation: Our study shows that maternally transferred antibodies protect offspring from enterovirus infection and virus-induced diabetes. This suggests that the absence of maternally provided protection increases the risk for severe outcomes after an enterovirus infection in offspring. Moreover, our findings may have implications for the design of prospective studies aimed at investigating the possible role of enterovirus infections in the aetiology of human type 1 diabetes.