Vaccine Associated with Possible Risk Reduction for Type I Diabetes

Australian researchers have found a possible link between a decrease in the number of cases of type I diabetes in children and rotavirus vaccination.

Walter + Eliza Hall Medical Research Institute in collaboration with the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, both in Australia, has released a study on a possible association between rotavirus vaccine and the decreased incidence of type I diabetes in Australia's child population.

The researchers studied the numbers of children diagnosed with type I diabetes from 2000 to 2015 and found a 14% drop in the rates of the disease in children 0 to 4 years from 2007, when rotavirus vaccination was incorporated into the country's official vaccination calendar (covering 84% of the population).

This is the first time that diabetes diagnosis rates have fallen since the 1980s. However, over the 16 years surveyed, the decrease in rates only occurred in the 0 to 4 year age group. The numbers for children aged 5 to 9 and 10 to 14 have not changed over time.

The scientific work was published in the renowned medical journal, Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics and the main hypothesis is that the introduction of oral rotavirus vaccine may contribute to a protection against the development of type I diabetes in early childhood.

It has been known for some years that natural rotavirus infection directly affects pancreatic cells, causing their destruction and therefore the association of viral infections and diabetes has been studied in other research.

"On theoretical grounds it is not known whether the body's immune response to rotavirus could end up targeting pancreatic beta cells, " says Dr. Kirsten Perrett, PhD and one of the study's authors.

Research on the association of rotavirus vaccine and diabetes, albeit inconclusive, shows yet another way for studies on the risk factor of virus infection and disease onset.

Although the findings are preliminary, the hope with further studies is that this protection can also be attested to populations in other age groups and over time.

Diagnoses for type I diabetes have grown steadily since the 1980s, not only in Australia, but worldwide, and the reasons for this significant increase have not yet been fully understood by the medical profession.

Type I diabetes is a life-long condition that accompanies the patient, a condition of autoimmune destruction of the insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells. Insulin is the hormone responsible for controlling blood glucose levels.