Early respiratory tract infections may raise children’s type 1 diabetes risk
Infants who experience recurrent viral respiratory tract infections in the first six months of life may be at greater risk for a type 1 diabetes diagnosis by the age of eight years. This is the finding of a new study published in JAMA.
Experiencing a respiratory tract infection by the age of six months may raise the risk of type 1 diabetes by the age of 8 years, researchers suggest.
Respiratory tract infections are defined as any infection that affects the sinuses, throat, airways, or lungs, and they are most commonly caused by viruses.
Types of respiratory tract infections include the common cold, flu, tonsillitis, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
Children are particularly susceptible to respiratory tract infections because, unlike adults, their immune system has not acquired the immunity to stave off some of the viruses that cause them.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is one of the most common causes of respiratory tract infections among children.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that almost all children will have experienced an RSV infection by the age of two years, and most children who are hospitalized due to RSV infection are under six months of age.
According to study co-author Dr. Anette-Gabriele Ziegler, of Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen in Munich, Germany, and colleagues, previous studies have suggested that viral infections may raise the risk for type 1 diabetes.
They note that more recent studies have also identified a link between respiratory tract infections in the first six months of life and greater type 1 diabetes risk.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body is unable to produce the hormone insulin, causing a rise in blood glucose levels. It accounts for around 5 percent of all diabetes cases.
To investigate the link between early-life respiratory tract infections and type 1 diabetes further, Dr. Ziegler and colleagues analyzed data of 295,420 infants who were born between 2005-2007 in Bavaria, Germany, and who were followed-up for an average of 8.5 years.
During the follow-up period, 720 of the infants were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, representing a type 1 diabetes incidence of 29 per 100,000 children each year.
Around 93 percent of children experienced at least one infection before the age of two years, while 97 percent of children with type 1 diabetes had at least one infection before this age.
Around 87 percent of these infections were respiratory, according to the team, and around 84 percent were viral.
The researchers found that children who experienced respiratory tract infections between birth and 2.9 months of age or between three and 5.9 months of age were more likely to be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes by the age of eight years, compared with children who did not develop respiratory tract infections during those age ranges.
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