Rotavirus linked to decline in type 1 diabetes

A drop in the number of young children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes could be associated with the introduction of routine rotavirus vaccination of Australian infants, according to a new study by Melbourne researchers.

The researchers investigated the number of Australian children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes from 2000 to 2015 and found that type 1 diabetes diagnoses in children aged 0-4 years declined from 2007 – 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 today.

Key findings  at a glance:

  • The number of children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes has steadily increased in Australia since  the 1980s, but the reasons for this have been poorly understood
  • Researchers identified the first fall in type 1 diabetes in young Australian children born after 2007.
  • The fall in type 1 diabetes incidence in young children coincided with the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine as a routine infant vaccination. This follows on from earlier research implicating rotavirus infection in children as a risk factor for developing type 1 diabetes.

Decline in type 1 diabetes

Since the 1980s, the incidence of type 1 diabetes has steadily increased in Australia and worldwide, but the reasons for this increase are poorly understood. Type 1 diabetes is a serious, lifelong autoimmune condition, in which the body’s immune system destroys cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, a hormone that controls the level of glucose in the blood.

By investigating the number of Australian children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes each year since 2000, the research team observed that after 2007 the rate of type 1 diabetes decreased in children 0-4 years old. The rotavirus vaccine is routinely given to Australian infants aged 2 and 4 months to protect them against a severe, potentially life-threatening form of diarrhoea.

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.

You can read more about the research here

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