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February 11, 2004

Genetics and Heredity, Research: Causes and Prevention

Question from Greensboro, North Carolina, USA:

My son was diagnosed at the young age of 15 months. My husband has type 1 and his great uncle had type 1 as well. What are the chances that our next child will get the disease?

Also, I understand that there must be an environmental trigger to start type 1 and I have read a lot about infections being a main cause. The only infection that my son had other than the normal cold was the RSV virus when he was 4 months old. Could this be a possible cause for someone who was diagnosed at 15 months? Also, unfortunately, we were unable to breast feed. He also had his regular immunizations. Which one would more likely be the cause?


From: DTeam Staff

The chances of your next child developing type 1 diabetes before age 18 are about 1:20. This assumes that your 15 month son actually has type 1A or autoimmune diabetes which was confirmed by a positive antibody test. Early exposure to cow’s milk was long supposed to be an environmental trigger for clinical diabetes; but although early reports from Finland seemed convincing subsequent studies in many parts of the world did not confirm this finding. It is also very unlikely that the RSV infection played a similar role although it is quite likely that the stress of a virus infection could have accelerated an already established autoimmune process.What exactly these environmental triggers are remains to be defined though the Norwegians have made a claim that it may be insufficient maternal Vitamin D during pregnancy.