MELBOURNE, Australia—In a time of increasingly contentious talk around diabetes—specifically, skyrocketing costs for insulin in the United States right now—the idea of curing diabetes is ironically a bit of a sore point for people who suffer from the disease, because while a cure would be nice, staying alive in the meantime is a more pressing matter.
But seeing as how DDNews is about drug discovery and development, pricing—while important—isn't a matter we routinely discuss, and so news of a potential new treatment or prevention pathway with regard to type 1 diabetes is something we cannot simply pass by.
And so we have news coming out from Melbourne-based researchers drop in the number of young children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes that might be associated with the introduction of routine rotavirus vaccination of Australian infants.
The researchers investigated the number of Australian children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) from 2000 to 2015 and found that type 1 diabetes diagnoses in children aged 0 to 4 years declined from 2007, which was the year that rotavirus vaccine was introduced as a routine infant vaccination. This is the first time the rate of type 1 diabetes in young children in Australia has fallen since the 1980s. While not conclusively linking the rotavirus vaccine with protection against type 1 diabetes, the discovery builds on earlier research suggesting natural rotavirus infection may be a risk factor for type 1 diabetes.
The study, a collaboration led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and Walter and Eliza Hall Institute clinician scientists, was published in JAMA Pediatrics under the title “Association of Rotavirus Vaccination With the Incidence of Type 1 Diabetes in Children.”
As noted in the abstract for the paper, “Rotavirus infection triggers pancreatic apoptosis in mice, and RV peptides display molecular mimicry with T-cell epitopes in pancreatic β-cell autoantigens. We hypothesized that if natural infection with RV was a causative factor in T1D, then RV vaccination would decrease the incidence of disease over time. Therefore, using publicly available data, we examined the incidence of T1D in Australian children before and after the oral RV vaccine was introduced to the Australian National Immunisation Program in 2007.”
“The significant decrease in type 1 diabetes that we detected in young children after 2007 was not seen in older children aged 5 to 14. This suggests the young children could have been exposed to a protective factor that didn’t impact older children,” said Dr Kirsten Perrett from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.
Prof. Len Harrison from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, who is the study senior author, noted the discovery followed on from earlier research implicating rotavirus infection in the development of T1D.
“Twenty years ago, our team revealed an association between the appearance of immune markers of type 1 diabetes in children and rotavirus infection. Subsequent studies in laboratory models suggested rotavirus infection of pancreatic cells can trigger an immune attack against the insulin-producing cells – similar to what occurs in type 1 diabetes,” he explained. “While not conclusive, our latest study suggests that preventing rotavirus infection in Australian infants by vaccination may also reduce their risk of type 1 diabetes. We will be continuing this research to look more closely at the correlation, by comparing the health records of young children with or without type 1 diabetes. At this stage we don’t yet know whether the reduction in type 1 diabetes is a permanent effect or transient, and it may only be relevant to Australian children.”