As part of the Diabetes Virus Detection study (DiViD), researchers from Scandinavia and the UK have used PCR to understand more about the role of infections with Enterovirus in type I diabetes. The results are published in the journal Diabetes.
There is a theory that low-grade enteroviral infection in the islets in the pancreas play a role in disease progression in humans. If this is supported, it could mean that vaccines or antiviral therapeutics could be used to treat the disease.
To try to find out more, the team took tissue samples from the pancreas of six people within 3-9 weeks of their diagnosis with type I diabetes. They started by using immunohistochemistry techniques to look for enteroviral capsid protein 1 (VP1), and for the expression of class I HLA genes, to find evidence of viral infection. They then used PCR (polymerase chain reaction) to analyse the entovirus RNA in isolated pancreatic islets and from fresh frozen whole pancreatic tissue, with tissue from nine non-diabetic organ donors acting as controls.
Immunohistochemistry tests showed VP1 in the islets of all six type I diabetic patients and two of the nine controls, and hyperexpression of class I HLA molecules in all six type I diabetic patients and one of the nine controls. PCR assays found enterovirus-specific RNA sequences in four of six patients but in no controls. The levels of VP1 and enterovirus RNA were low.
According to the researchers, the results suggest that a low grade enteroviral infection in the pancreatic islets could contribute to disease progression.