Kids who have respiratory infections in early childhood are more prone to developing Type 1 diabetes later in life, according to new research out of Germany.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics
, is the first to link lung infections with the insulin-dependent form of diabetes, which is rapidly increasing worldwide for reasons scientists can’t explain. As a result, the findings could provide new clues to helping doctors identify those children at risk of developing diabetes and take steps to prevent it.
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They also indicate preventing infections in young children, through vaccination, may also reduce their diabetes risks later.
Andreas Beyerlein, from the Institute of Diabetes Research in Munich, and colleagues sought to determine whether lung infections and fever during the first three years of life put children at increased risk for diabetes.
"Our study identified respiratory infections in early childhood, especially in the first year of life, as a risk factor for the development of [diabetes," Beyerlein said. "We also found some evidence for short-term effects of infectious events on development of autoimmunity, while cumulative exposure alone seemed not to be causative."
The study included 148 children at high risk for diabetes with 1,245 documented infectious events during their first three years of life.
The results showed the greatest risk appeared to be in children who had respiratory infections during the first six to 12 months of life.
"Potential prevention strategies against [diabetes] derived from studies like this might address early vaccination against specific infectious agents," Beyerlein added.
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