Respiratory infections in Early Life linked to Type1 Diabetes

It may, prima facie, look like the innocuous cold or the routine viral; however any kind of respiratory infection in early life should not be taken lightly for this could lead to serious complications in later life.

Findings of a new study suggest that respiratory infections during the first six months of life enhance the chances of contracting Type1 diabetes. Such infections more than double the risk of contracting the medical condition.

The present research, conducted at the Institute of Diabetes Research in Munich, also found that respiratory problems that occur after the first six months do not pose such a serious problem. In such cases the probability of contracting Type1 diabetes increase by 32 percent.

Research Methodology
For the purpose of the study that lasted three years, the researchers examined 148 children who were not yet 3 months old at the start of the study.

The parents of these children were required to fill a comprehensive questionnaire that included the child’s history of infections and medication use. Some questions were designed to inquire about the parent’s lifestyle habits.

The researchers recorded 1,245 infection ‘events’ during the course of the study. Of these, 669 infections were in the upper respiratory tract, including the ear, nose, throat (ENT) and eye region. 257 infections were recorded in the digestive system while 319 cases were miscellaneous infections that were classified as ‘other infections’ for the purpose of this study.

The study found that children who had a respiratory infection during the first six months of life doubled their chances of developing isletauto antibodies vis-à-vis their counterparts who did not have any infection during the said phase of life.

“Parents of high-risk children might possibly decrease their children’s type 1 diabetes risk by reducing exposure to respiratory infections in very early life,” Andreas Beyerlein, lead author of the study, said.

Limitation of the Study
All the 148 children under study had a first-degree relative with type 1 diabetes. Therefore, it cannot be stated with surety whether these findings are universally applicable.

“In general, the early immune system is still in a phase of development, and may therefore be particularly susceptible for challenges by infectious agents. However, we cannot explain yet why specifically respiratory infections might be relevant in this phase,” Beyerlein said.

The findings of the study have been published online in JAMA Pediatrics.