Frequent colds increase the risk of diabetes

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Danger to children of diabetic patients

Frequent colds in the first months of life of genetically predisposed children seem to increase the risk of later developing type 1 diabetes. The infections therefore make them more susceptible to the later appearance of so-called autoantibodies that characterize the development of the disease.

Parent or sibling with diabetes
Children who have a parent or sibling with type 1 diabetes appear to be particularly at risk of developing the same condition if they often catch a cold in the first few months of life. This is the conclusion reached by scientists from the Institute for Diabetes Research at the Helmholtz Center in Munich. Infections, especially colds, would therefore make them more susceptible to the later appearance of so-called autoantibodies, which characterize the development of type 1 diabetes. This form of diabetes forms antibodies against the insulin-forming cells of the pancreas. This most often happens between the ages of six months and three years. When looking for possible triggers during this time, the scientists came across respiratory infections.

To arrive at these results, the researchers analyzed the data from 148 participants in the BABYDIÄT study who had a parent or sibling with type 1 diabetes. In addition to information such as fever, medication or regular blood value data, infection logs were also kept. A distinction was made between respiratory diseases, gastrointestinal infections and other infections. It was shown that in the first year of life there was a connection between respiratory infections and an increased occurrence of autoantibodies. The Munich scientists published their study in the journal "JAMA Pediatrics".

Potential risk factor for respiratory diseases
First author Andreas Beyerlein from the Institute for Diabetes Research summarized the results: "The analysis showed that frequent respiratory diseases in the first year of life are a potential risk factor for the development of type 1 diabetes." The number of infections is in the first six months of life the BABYDIÄT study has risen sharply. "The immune system is still immature in the first months of life, and after a few months the mother's passive immune protection ceases," Beyerlein said. The children, who later had antibodies against their own islet cells, had been infected at least twice in the first year of life, especially Children who had more than five respiratory infections in the same period had the highest probability of getting antibodies, and the scientists believe that the sum of the infections and the inflammatory messengers released in the process is decisive for the risk of an autoimmune reaction.

Avoid colds
According to study director Anette-Gabriele Ziegler, multiple colds are best avoided in early childhood. She continued: "The development of targeted vaccinations or anti-inflammatory therapies could contribute to a healthy maturation of the immune system and thus to the prevention of type 1 diabetes, especially for genetically determined people at risk." And lead author Beyerlein explained that the results of the study were only for children with a special risk of diabetes. "These are only children with family-related significantly increased type 1 diabetes risk." Suitable vaccinations are already being sought for these children. (ad)

Image: Karl-Heinz Laube /

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