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June 8, 2010

Research: Causes and Prevention

Question from Kansas City, Missouri, USA:

My 19-year-old daughter has had type 1 for 10 years. This past week, her 21-year-old brother, who is away at college, was diagnosed with viral meningitis. He was an extremely healthy child and we had thought he just had a flu virus, but after seven days of up and down fevers, he went to the clinic. No blood work was done but based on symptoms of fever, stiff neck and eye pain, he was given the diagnosis. Since I am aware that there is a strong tie with enteroviruses and type 1 diabetes, is there any way to be proactive to watch for any signs of an attack on his beta cells? There appear to be quite a few clinical trials with Diabecell and others to preserve beta cell function that we would definitely consider. I realize this is very premature but I just want to be prepared. Is there any knowledge as to a timeframe that one would know if he would be okay or is that still in the research stages? I would appreciate any information concerning this topic.


Meningitis is not high on the list of specific viral infections that are associated with onset of type 1 diabetes but, of course, this is a serious “viral insult” to the body, but not directly specifically to the pancreas. So, the simple answer to your complex question is that there is no specific proactive treatment except to make sure good nutrition, non-obesity and sufficient vitamin D intake (i.e., 2000 IU/day) on a daily basis – not related to this infection at all – since those are the known factors. In research protocols, antibody levels and genetic testing for high versus low risk HLA haplotypes might be offered but this is too expensive for day-to-day testing.