Considerable evidence implies that an enteroviral infection may accelerate or precipitate type 1 diabetes (T1D) in some individuals. However, causality is not proven. We present and critically assess evidence suggesting that islet β cells can become infected with enterovirus, and argue that this may result in one of several consequences. Occasionally, a fully lytic infection may arise and this culminates in fulminant diabetes. Alternatively, an atypical persistent infection develops which can be either benign or promote islet autoimmunity. We propose a model in which the 'strength' of the β cell response to the establishment of a persistent enteroviral infection determines the final disease outcome.
Keywords: Coxsackievirus; islets of Langerhans; pathogen recognition receptors; persistent infection; type 1 diabetes.
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