Diabetes mellitus due to viruses--some recent developments

Diabetologia. 1993 Aug;36(8):687-95. doi: 10.1007/BF00401138.


Many different viruses belonging to several genera have the potential to damage beta cells. The mechanisms they employ are varied, and infection may result in either a direct destruction of islets and rapid insulin deficiency, or in a more gradual loss of functioning islets with the onset of diabetes many years later. Several case histories involving extensive cytolysis of beta cells can be directly linked to viral infection, whilst an example of diabetes occurring many years after viral infection is found in individuals who had a congenital infection with rubella virus. Here, the virus induces an autoimmune reaction against beta cells. Autoimmune phenomena have also been observed in islets following infections with viruses other than rubella, and thus activation of autoimmune mechanisms leading to beta-cell destruction may be a relatively frequent occurrence. Recent evidence shows that picornaviruses are not exclusively lytic, and can induce more subtle, long-term changes in beta cells, which may be important in the aetiology of diabetes. The exact mechanisms involved are not known, but it is clear that several viruses can directly inhibit insulin synthesis and induce the expression of other proteins such as interferons, and the HLA antigens. Strain differences in viruses are important since not all variants are tropic for the beta cells. Several laboratories are in the process of identifying the genetic determinants of tropism and diabetogenicity, especially amongst the Coxsackie B (CB) virus group. The sequence of one such diabetogenic CB4 strain virus has been determined.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Codon / genetics
  • Coxsackievirus Infections / complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / etiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / microbiology*
  • Enterovirus B, Human / genetics
  • Enterovirus B, Human / pathogenicity*
  • Humans
  • Islets of Langerhans / microbiology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Picornaviridae Infections / complications
  • Virus Diseases / complications*


  • Codon