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February 15, 2003

Research: Causes and Prevention

Question from Barrie, Ontario, Canada:

My four year old son,diagnosed with type 1 diabetes two months ago, had Kawasaki disease two years prior to diabetes and he had chicken pox two weeks prior to that. Is it possible either of these illnesses led to the other and possibly could be the cause of his diabetes?


Kawasaki disease is now thought to be linked to a genetic susceptibility; but to a different one than that in type 1A (autoimmune) diabetes. It is considered to be due to some so far unidentified infectious agent and there does seem to be a tenuous link to chicken pox. Neither of these two conditions is known to have any role in triggering the autoimmune process in type 1A diabetes, which in your son’s case almost certainly started before the first infection. It is possible of course that the stress of either infection might have modestly exacerbated the already established inflammatory islet cell damage.