Maternal Virus Infections in Pregnancy and Type 1 Diabetes in Their Offspring: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies

Rev Med Virol. 2018 May;28(3):e1974. doi: 10.1002/rmv.1974. Epub 2018 Mar 22.


Virus infections are implicated in the development of type 1 diabetes based on epidemiological, clinical, in vitro cell-based and molecular studies, and animal models. We reviewed the association between virus infections in pregnant women and development of islet autoimmunity or type 1 diabetes in their offspring. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis, analysed using random effects models, of human studies from Medline and EMBASE without language restriction. Inclusion criteria were as follows: cohort and case-control studies measuring viral nucleic acid in blood, stool, urine, or tissue, or serological tests for viruses, in pregnant women whose offspring developed islet autoimmunity and/or type 1 diabetes. All studies required sufficient data to calculate odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals. The 10 studies (4 case control, 6 nested-case control) that met the eligibility criteria included 2992 participants (953 offspring, 2039 mothers), with varying study design. The 2 outcomes examined were islet autoimmunity (n = 466) and type 1 diabetes (n = 2526). Meta-analysis showed a significant association between virus infection during pregnancy and clinical type 1 diabetes during childhood (odds ratio 2·16, 95% CI 1·22-3·80; P = 0·008; heterogeneity X2 = 1·65, I2 = 40%), but no association with islet autoimmunity (1·45, 0·63-3·31; P = 0·38; X2 = 1·34, I2 = 25%). The increased risk of type 1 diabetes following maternal virus infection is consistent with viraemia involving the fetus during pregnancy and suggests a potential causative link between antenatal infection and type 1 diabetes. Larger prospective birth studies with more frequent sampling, and pathogenesis studies, are required to more clearly establish an aetiological link.

Keywords: congenital rubella; coxsackievirus; cytomegalovirus; enterovirus; islet autoimmunity; type 1 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autoimmunity
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / immunology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious* / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy in Diabetics* / epidemiology
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Virus Diseases / complications*
  • Virus Diseases / epidemiology
  • Virus Diseases / virology

Associated data

  • ANZCTR/ACTRN12613000794707