Research published in the BMJ showed an association between type-1 diabetes and enterovirus infection, although researchers said they could not be sure whether the link was causal.
The team carried out a meta-analysis of 24 studies and two abstracts, involving 4,480 participants.
Researchers studied data on RNA levels or protein in the blood, stool or tissue of pre-diabetic and diabetic patients, which was used to establish whether they were infected with enterovirus. The level of infection was then compared them with non-diabetic patients.
The link was particularly strong in children, which were almost 10 times as likely to carry the virus. Children with pre-diabetes were around three times more likely to have the infection than other children.
However, researchers said the observational study could not establish whether this link was casual.
The researchers concluded: ‘Larger prospective studies are needed to establish a clear temporal relation between enterovirus infection and the development of autoimmunity and type-1 diabetes.’
In an accompanying editorial, Professor Didier Hober and Professor Famara Sane from the University of Lille, France, said: ‘The association between enteroviruses and type-1 diabetes opens up the possibility of developing new preventive and therapeutic strategies to fight this disease.’