With increasing rates of Type 1 diabetes in children, it's important to study the pathogenesis of this disease and understand the underlying causes. In the past, there has been very little understanding of why Type 1 diabetes occurs in children, but recent research may help to elucidate that.
A study by Zvi Laron, a professor at Tel Aviv University, suggests that viral infections during pregnancy can induce an in utero response and contribute towards Type 1 diabetes. The study finds that pregnant women may transmit viruses to their fetuses, leading to Type 1 diabetes. This research is based upon seasonal birth data from Israel and the related development of Type 1 diabetes. The viruses appear to damage the pancreas of mother and fetus, leading to antibody production against the islet cells producing insulin. In particular "winter epidemics" were associated with higher rates of Type 1 diabetes in children, with 10% of healthy women who had no family history of autoimmune disease testing positive for antibodies targeting pancreatic islet cells.
It will be interesting to follow-up on this research in the future to determine what specific types of viral infections lead to the incidence of Type 1 diabetes. The study will be conducted in the future with a larger cohort of women, which may prove to be instrumental to better understanding Type 1 diabetes.