When You Can Expect to Get Your COVID-19 Vaccine

This content originally appeared on Beyond Type 1. Republished with permission.

By Lala Jackson

We now have two FDA-approved and safe COVID-19 vaccines in the US! So as a person with type 1 diabetes, you may be wondering when you can get yours.

The answer? Unclear. It’s all a bit of a logistical mess right now, but here’s what we do know – when you are able to receive your COVID-19 vaccine is dependent on your age, your specific health history (not necessarily whether or not you can check the ‘type 1 diabetes’ box on a form), the state and county in which you live, your employment type, and your healthcare provider’s recommendations.

Overall, having type 1 diabetes does not seem to put anyone more at risk for contracting the novel coronavirus, but other factors like older age, high-exposure employment, consistently elevated blood glucose levels, or other non-diabetes related health factors like obesity and hypertension may increase your risk of infection.

However, we also know that diabetes care itself is made far more complicated after contracting COVID-19 and protecting anyone with diabetes from COVID-19 is our ultimate goal. That’s why Beyond Type 1 has signed onto calls to action urging equal prioritization and is working closely with JDRF, the ADA, and other diabetes patient organizations to advocate for all people with diabetes to be included in Phase 1c of the CDC’s immunization recommendations.

Additionally, because vaccine rollout is happening on a state level, individual advocacy at a state level may be more efficient than federal action. In your community, reach out to your state representatives to let them know that people with any type of diabetes should be included in Phase 1c. Utilize JDRF’s COVID-19 Vaccine Access Toolkit for more resources.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Phased Us Rollout

In the US, the vaccine is being rolled out in phases in *most* states. Already, there are inconsistencies that make it difficult to estimate when you might get a vaccine.

Following approval of the vaccines, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices created a set of rollout guidelines they recommend for states to follow. These guidelines include phased recommendations for which groups of people should be prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccines based on risk factors like older age, underlying health conditions, and lines of work that expose them to COVID-19.

Phase 1a is in process, having begun in December 2020 immediately following the approval of the COVID-19 vaccines in the US. It includes frontline healthcare providers and residents of nursing homes, where COVID-19 cases and deaths have been dramatically highest.

Phase 1b is happening in some states already, includes people over the age of 74, and expands to more frontline workers, including first responders, food and agricultural workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, teachers, and child care workers.

Phase 1c is also happening in some states already, while still several months out others. This phase includes people over the age of 64, anyone else aged 16 or above with medical conditions that increase the risk for severe COVID-19*, and all other essential workers, like those in transportation and logistics, water and wastewater, food service, construction, finance, information technology and communications, energy, legal, media, public safety, and public health workers.

Note that Phase 1c is a BROAD group of people, and this is where things get a bit fuzzy. It is up to each state to control rollout. Many states are following the CDC’s recommendations quite closely, some are following them but not precisely (grouping some phases together, accelerating others), and some have created their own systems, often down to a county-by-county basis.

*What Does This Mean for People With Diabetes?

For people living with diabetes who are not otherwise prioritized because of age or employment type, Phase 1c is the one to look at carefully. As defined by the CDC, people aged 16 or over with medical conditions that increase the risk for severe COVID-19 are included in this phase. But what medical conditions are included?

Short answer – it’s in flux and it depends entirely on your state. Important to remember is that the CDC’s recommendations are just that – recommendations. They have very purposely created guidelines to inform rollout based on most recently available data on high-risk medical conditions, but their guidelines are not meant to be absolute law.

Currently included in Phase 1c recommendations are people with the following conditions: cancer, chronic kidney disease, sickle cell disease, COPD, Down Syndrome, heart conditions, weakened immune systems, obesity, pregnancy, smoking, or Type 2 diabetes.

This means that for those with type 1 or any type of diabetes other than Type 2, you are possibly, depending on your state, not included in the initial rollout and may need to wait to receive your vaccine with the general population, which is likely to be in April 2021 or later.

But don’t panic – as we’ll explain further below, you may still be able to receive the vaccine earlier, based on state or based on your specific health history.

Type 1 Diabetes + COVID-19

Type 1 diabetes itself is not likely to make you more at risk of catching coronavirus. While some have pointed toward the callout of people with immunocompromised systems being in Phase 1c, it is important to remember that having an autoimmune disease (where the immune system attacks itself) is not the same thing as being immunocompromised (where the immune system is susceptible to outside illnesses).

However, other factors associated with T1D may increase your risk of more intense symptoms and severe complications, and if you have to get hospitalized for COVID-19, diabetes care becomes dicey.

This is a piece that has been very confusing and not communicated as clearly as it could be throughout the pandemic – the factors that make a person with any type of diabetes most at risk catching coronavirus and for experiencing severe symptoms and complications of COVID-19 are systemic racism (like being denied or not believed when care is needed), healthcare access issues (like not being able to see a doctor for non-COVID care when needed, or not being able to afford medications and supplies because of job or healthcare loss), consistently elevated blood glucose levels, recent diabetes ketoacidosisjobs that increase exposure to COVID-19, etc.

Type 1 diabetes combined with these factors does create elevated risk. But well-controlled type 1 diabetes on its own does not seem to make someone more at risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

A few studies have raised concerns that outcomes for people with type 1 diabetes who get COVID-19 are far more severe than a person without diabetes, but digging into those studies provides clarity on what’s actually being shown.

  • In May 2020, the UK’s health system released numbers showing severe hospitalization and death rates for people with diabetes. It sounded scary, but what it did not clarify was that additional risk factors like heart disease were of great impact to outcomes, and that the study actually showed that people with type 1 diabetes and no other underlying risk factors like older age or other health history actually did quite well – they were not frequently hospitalized for COVID-19 and those who were had low frequencies of severe outcomes.
  • In December 2020, a similar study was released in Diabetes Care, with a headline saying that COVID-19 severity is tripled in the diabetes community. But again, what it did not immediately clarify was how much the severity was dependent on additional factors, like race (due to long-standing systemic racism), elevated HbA1c, hypertension, lack of diabetes technology, lack of health insurance, less diabetes technology use, etc.

Another study that shows these risk factors well was published in July 2020, outlining the fact that older age and other health-related risk factors were more impactful on severe outcomes than diabetes itself, particularly type 1 diabetes.

Overall, yes – anyone living with diabetes of any type needs to pay careful attention to their health amidst this pandemic. The safest thing anyone can do is practice safety measures to avoid getting COVID-19. For those who cannot – essential workers or people who otherwise have to be exposed to the virus – or those with other underlying health factors, those are the most important factors that must be taken into consideration for priority vaccination.

But just having type 1 diabetes alone, if you are otherwise healthy and not significantly exposed to the virus, should not give you reason to panic. Perhaps more important is ensuring everyone in the general public gets vaccinated as quickly as possible so that diabetes care can be safely accessed, and so hospitals and ICUs are not overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients in the event of emergency diabetes care needs.

How You Get Your Vaccine

Look up your state health department’s guidelines. If it is unclear or you are unsatisfied with what you’ve found, go ahead and reach out to your healthcare provider. Particularly if you have a healthcare provider like an endocrinologist who helps you take care of your diabetes, they may have some insider information on how their hospital or practice is planning to distribute the vaccine.

Remember to be kind and patient – healthcare providers are carrying an immense amount and they may not have an answer for you immediately.

Every vaccine taken decreases the risk and prevents the spread of COVID-19. While it is frustrating to watch the logistical mess, the more people who get vaccinated quickly the better, and in the meantime, continue to practice safe measures that protect you and your loved ones from COVID-19, including doing your best to keep tight control of your blood sugar levels, wearing a mask and physical distancing from anyone outside of your household, and avoiding indoor gatherings.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

COVID-19 Vaccine: Experience and Thoughts from the Diabetes Community

We are almost one year into the COVID-19 pandemic and while it is still causing devastation, there is light at the end of the tunnel thanks to two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, now offering a vaccine.

It varies by state but healthcare workers and people over 75 years (over 65 in some states) are the first in line. After that, people with high-risk, pre-existing conditions will be next. See here to find out your exact eligibility per state.

Many people have mixed feelings about the vaccine. Some are certain they will get it, not only because they don’t believe the vaccine is at all harmful but because they want life to go back to normal as soon as possible, while also protecting their health. Others are reluctant, possibly questioning the novelty and quick turnaround of the vaccine and wondering if there may be unforeseen side effects.

We thought it would be nice to hear from people like ourselves, who also live with diabetes, and see how they feel about getting vaccinated. We also spoke to some people who have already received the vaccine and heard about their experiences with side effects.

We asked our own Diabetes Daily forum members and the diabetes online community and here is what they had to say:

My wife with type 2 diabetes also suffers from COPD, bronchitis, and asthma. Accordingly, she would have a problem surviving COVID, so we have both registered with the NJ Covid Registry and will take the vaccine as soon as it becomes available. ~ Don1942

As I see it, two of these vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) use a completely new and untested approach called mRNA. They were tested for only a short term on young, healthy adults. Animal, medium, and long-term testing were bypassed entirely. No testing on those with various health issues, and no testing for drug interactions. They only claim to reduce the number of symptoms. Zero claims are made about keeping you from getting or transmitting the virus. Last statement verified by Fauci saying anti-social distancing, lockdowns, and masking will still apply once you have had the vaccine. Then there are the 3+% of those who are vaccinated who suffer worse side effects than the symptoms the drug is supposed to reduce, keeping in mind that in the age groups tested only 1% would ever show any symptoms at all.

Finally the manufacturers take zero fiscal responsibility for bad outcomes. If they don’t believe their drugs are safe, why should I? ~ BobCan2

I have a nephew that has a doctorate in biochemistry (currently working on gene therapy). Said “I would take any of the vaccines in a second.” His wife also an MD has had the Moderna vaccine. I have a niece that is working on her doctorate in microbiology who has had the vaccine. So yes, I will take it. ~ 1986

I’m a no. Given my recent extended exposure, I’m not concerned. I’ll gladly wait for herd immunity. ~ HaoleBoy

I am a surgeon. I got the first dose of the Moderna vaccine. Just a sore arm. I have reviewed all of the science presented to the FDA and have no concerns. Glad to have access! ~ Dr. Carrie D.

So I voted yes… I’ve stated before that I used to be in the vaccine industry and I trust the science and the process. It’s not new technology being used. ~ Jughed

I’m getting the Moderna vaccine on Monday. I am a special education teacher in WI and we are the first group identified in the school district. Blessing! ~ Melissa R.

I think most people of my age remember friends getting polio, and I also remember giving my father chickenpox, which made him very, very ill; so having seen the miracles these vaccines did for quality of life, and preventing unnecessary deaths, I know I am very much pro-vaccination. My name will go down for a vaccine when it finally arrives here, hopefully, next month. I’m eligible for priority vaccination because of my age and a couple of chronic conditions.

I am 81 years old and a type 1 diabetic for 75 years. I am very high risk if I have the COVID virus. I am scheduled for the vaccine on Wed, Jan 21. My only hesitance is that the vaccine is being given in the gym complex at the local high school. I will probably encounter several individuals in the parking lot, while entering the building, inside the building, etc. In some states, people are receiving the vaccine without getting out of their cars. I wish it was done that way here where I live. ~ Richard `57

I am getting mine next weekend. I am 100% behind the science and haven’t given it a negative thought. Bring it on! ~ Susan K.

I’ll have it as soon as it’s offered. I am just recovering from COVID and it is awful. Sugars were terrible. I never want it again if I can help it. ~ Michelle R.

I will not be getting one. Mostly because I can’t help but think childhood vaccines play a major role in type 1 diabetes in the first place as vaccines are designed to trigger the immune system. ~ Fabian B.

I plan on getting the J&J one once it’s approved. I’m uncomfortable with the speed of the first two on the market, despite all I know everyone is saying. I feel better about the slow poke even if it’s irrational. ~ Caroline L.

Nope, nope and nope again. ~Kristin R.

I won’t be giving it to my son or myself. ~ Julie P.

I plan on getting one. In Nebraska, people living with diabetes are now eligible. ~ Wendy G.

My daughter is type 1 but it is not approved for children yet but she will not receive one and will remain not vaccinated as she always has been. ~ Stefanie R.

Here is what the people who have already received the vaccine had to say:

I had both doses. I’m 10 days out and still feel very run down. I was COVID-tested yesterday because it felt like a mild case but was negative. I received the vaccine 2 weeks ago and no side effects. Type 1 for 55 years. ~ Cindi H.

Tolerated both injections. Side effects were mild, with some deep muscle soreness, at least for me. I did note some insulin resistance post injections. ~ Chris A.

I got my first dose a couple of weeks ago and will get my next one in two weeks. I just had a sore arm and a little fatigued the next day. By the third day, I felt pretty normal. I didn’t notice any changes to my insulin sensitivity or blood sugar levels. ~ Karissa G.

I received both doses. My only issues were headache, fatigue, and chills.

COVID vaccine update #2: 24 hours later, I don’t feel horrible, but definitely off. Some body aches, headache and overall sluggishness. I went to bed at about 8:30 and “slept” till 10:30. (with my saul dog interruptions and the baby kicking my bladder, etc.)” ~ Nicole M.

I had mine because I work for the National Health Service and I had no side effects at all. ~ Kate B.

I was nauseous after my first dose for about 12 hours. I took a Zofran and was fine. ~ Jamie B.

I did have side effects (pain, mild fever) but I won’t hesitate to go for the second shot.

I have completed the series and just had a sore arm for a couple of days each time.

No side effects beyond a sore arm. I like the peace of mind and I did extensive research before getting it to fully understand what I was getting into. ~ Sarah R.

My 82-year old identical twin sisters each received the first dose. One got the Pfizer and the other the Moderna. No adverse reactions thus far. The one that got the Pfizer has allergies so was a bit concerned but had no reaction. ~ Auburn75

It should be mandatory that vaccines like this are taken. It’s not a conspiracy theory. There aren’t robots in the vaccine. This whole virus story isn’t a hoax, and this hasn’t been started because some people are simply trying to make some money. The sheer lunacy I’ve seen out there is beyond description. Some people think the world is flat. I’ve gotten both doses and have had zero side effects. ~ Sheralyn B.

I received my first vaccine on Jan 8 with minimal side effects being a sore arm and mild low blood sugars. On Jan 27 I received my second vaccine. Initially only had a sore arm and headache but after 36 hours, developed mild fever of 99.7, body aches, headache, continued low blood sugars, and a grape side swollen lymph node in my armpit, the arm I received my vaccine in. Fever and swollen lymph node improved with Tylenol and Ibuprofen! ~ Carlie W.

Will you be getting the vaccine once it is available to you? Have you had one or both doses and experienced side effects? Share and comment below!

Source: diabetesdaily.com

COVID-19 Vaccine for People with Diabetes: What’s Going On?

The COVID-19 vaccine is here, and like most things dealing with the pandemic, the rollout of both the Pfizer-BioNtech and the Moderna vaccines has been a nightmare. The Trump administration’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) released loose guidelines for states to follow in determining how to disseminate the vaccine but has largely left most of the decisions up to the states. Most people don’t yet know when they’ll receive the vaccine, and on the whole, most states are still in phase 1a, disseminating shots to frontline healthcare workers and those living in long-term care facilities.

In their initial recommendations, people with type 1 diabetes would receive the vaccine further down on the priority list, along with healthy individuals under 65 years old. People with type 2 diabetes are classified as, “at increased risk for severe COVID-19–associated illness”, and are thus to be given priority access in phase 1c, along with people who suffer from other conditions, such as cancer, heart failure, sickle cell disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and smoking. Type 1 diabetes is classified as, “might be at increased risk for severe COVID-19-associated illness”, to be given access in phase 2, with other conditions such as being overweight (BMI >25), and suffering from neurologic conditions.

This would put people with type 1 diabetes in the general population rollout, months after not only people with type 2 diabetes have gotten their shots, but behind many other chronic conditions, too. This is a harsh slap in the face for a community that could face so many negative consequences should they contract the virus (not to mention people with diabetes make up 40% of all COVID-19 deaths).

But recent data has come out that people with type 1 diabetes suffer from mortality from COVID-19 at similar rates as people with type 2 diabetes, and a study conducted by Vanderbilt University said people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes who have COVID-19 have three to four times higher risk of severe complications and hospitalization as compared to people without diabetes.

Several more studies show that having type 1 diabetes is potentially even more dangerous if you contract COVID-19  than having type 2: A Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology study published last year looked at medical records from the National Health Service in England to conclude that the risk of dying from Covid-19 was almost three times higher for people with type 1 diabetes and almost twice as high for type 2 than for those without diabetes.

In Scotland, another Lancet study said being admitted to an ICU or dying was more than twice as likely for type 1 diabetes patients and nearly 1.5 times more likely for type 2 diabetes patients than for people without diabetes.

People with type 1 diabetes have been told that they live with a disability the entire time they’ve lived with this incurable illness. We’ve sat on the sidelines while going low, been discriminated against in the school and workplace, shut out from certain industries and employers, and know the unique and awful feeling of our skin tightening from a hyperglycemic event after our pump failed for the umpteenth time in our sleep. We require special accommodations, a militant watch on our medication, exercise, insulin, and food intake, and are never offered a break, a day off, or even a hint of affordable insulin.

We live in the unique situation of a dual-reality: having a chronic condition, yet feeling its invisibility every day. We’re never quite “sick enough”; we never “look” diabetic; sometimes, we feel like we don’t even “deserve” the meager accommodations that we get (always pre-board flights, because you’re allowed to!). We live every day with the knowledge that our life expectancy is likely shorter, our days are harder, and especially during this pandemic, many of us have lived in fear of a serious complication should we contract COVID-19 and the bleak consequences we could face. Many of us have stayed home, shut-in, and waited this out, while watching some of our able-bodied peers continue to ignore public health protocols and guidelines.

The end result of the CDC’s recommendations burns and is tangible: states, including Iowa, Illinois, and Virginia, are prioritizing dissemination of the vaccination to people living with type 2 diabetes before people living with type 1 diabetes. Simply put: we’ve been told to stay in, shut up, and wait it out for the vaccine, due to our fragile health condition, and now that the vaccine is here, our disability is yet again being ignored.

Yes, type 2 diabetes is being prioritized and that is right, good, and important, but type 1 diabetes needs to be prioritized, too. They’re not mutually exclusive. Currently, the United Kingdom is not differentiating between type 1 and type 2 diabetes; they are prioritizing people who have either type. Other countries are following suit.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration reversed course, adopting part of president-elect Joe Biden’s distribution plan, advising states to prioritize everyone over the age of 65 and any person with a chronic condition to get the vaccine as soon as possible; states have yet to officially adopt these plans on a wide scale.

Recently, several letters were sent from various diabetes advocacy organizations to the CDC urging them to reconsider their guidelines. Organizations such as T1International, Mutual Aid Diabetes, The American Diabetes Association, JDRF, Beyond Type 1, Children with Diabetes, The diaTribe Foundation, DiabetesSisters, and T1D Exchange have lent their voices to make the needs of the 1.6 million people living with type 1 diabetes in America known.

The bottom line is that we need to curb the tide of this pandemic. Almost 400,000 Americans are dead, with a holiday-related surge in cases, hospitalizations, and death on the way. We need to get shots into as many arms as quickly as possible and stop telling some of our most vulnerable populations that, yet again, they aren’t sick enough to qualify, and that they can wait. We can’t.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Person with Type 1 Diabetes in the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Trial

This content originally appeared on Beyond Type 1. Republished with permission.

By Zoe Cook

Here’s the quick version for all of those who don’t have time to read my full experience below — I trialed the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and *spoiler alert* had a great experience.

If you had asked me ten months ago where I thought life would be now, it would be anywhere but here. I was preparing to graduate from UT Austin, finalizing my application to medical school, and planning my gap year. I had planned to spend the year traveling, working as an EMT, and living life to the fullest before I commit myself to my career for good. It was only a few weeks after the news first broke of COVID-19 that I was emailing my professors and voluntarily studying from home. Quickly realizing that our entire family is high-risk, we decided to air on the side of caution. The first week of March we decided to lock down and we’ve barely left since.

Why I Participated

In early August, I found out that a local research center was conducting a trial for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and that they were looking for high-risk frontline workers to participate (at the time, I was working at a children’s hospital). Many people questioned my choice to participate, but here’s why I decided it was right for me:

  1. My entire family is high-risk and not only was I the only one leaving the house, but I was leaving to work at a hospital.
  2. Thanks to my pre-med studies, I understand mRNA technology and the FDA clinical trial safety measures enough to feel comfortable in making an educated decision.
  3. I participated in the blinded Teplizumab trial when I was first diagnosed at the age of ten, so I am no stranger to the clinical trial process.
  4. I wanted to be a part of the solution. My nature is to help others in any way that I can; someone has to trial it for other type 1s, why not me?

Sure, my hands were shaking and I was sweating as I signed the final consent form, but it was something I felt I just needed to do.

The Doses

I went in for my first dose in mid-August. It was a long first appointment filled with lots of signatures, tests, and questions. I received my first dose that same day, with a 50/50 chance that I had the vaccine or placebo. The next day I had some arm soreness, but nothing else. I was secretly hoping for at least a little chill or body ache to try and confirm that I received the vaccine, but nothing. I was disappointed with the uncertainty, but also knew that symptoms were expected to be worse after the second dose and that I had a slightly swollen lymph node in my neck. A month later in mid-September, I had a second dose, which again resulted in no immediate side effects and didn’t even make the lymph node swell up again. Interestingly, after both doses, my insulin needs dropped slightly over four days, with the fourth day needing ~30% less insulin. I also developed eczema on my face, which is something I likely would have developed at some point in my life since we have a family history of many skin issues.

In October, I got my antibodies tested and was surprised to find out that I did indeed have antibodies. I can’t say for sure yet whether I had the vaccine, but based on the lymph nodes, sore arm, and antibody tests, it seems fairly certain. As I’m isolated and no one I know has had COVID symptoms, it would be highly unlikely that I got antibodies from anywhere else.

Editor’s Note: According to interim guidance from the CDC, COVID-19 antibody tests are not 100% accurate can result in both false negatives and false positives.

Even though I have antibodies and could assume I had the vaccine, I didn’t know how truly effective the vaccine was. I decided to still treat myself as though I was unvaccinated and not take any chances. Now that it’s been announced that the vaccine is 95% effective, I can feel more comfortable returning back to some form of normal-ish life. Even then, it’s been hard to undo the anxiety and fear that seem to have become a part of daily life over the past ten months. I still get uncomfortable when I see someone without a mask, don’t even begin to consider large gatherings, and stay home as much as possible. The changes for me have been small — being able to go to the grocery store, have a cup of coffee with a close friend, and start looking for jobs again. For our family, it was just the simplicity of going to bed with peace of mind that is priceless.

What’s Next

Within the next few days, trial participants should find out about the process of being unblinded if we are offered a vaccine elsewhere. I will most likely choose to stay blinded to keep the study valid. As long as I continue to test positive for antibodies, I personally don’t feel a need to be officially unblinded, as I imagine this means we will have to be removed from the trial.

For privacy reasons, I won’t say which trial center I participated with, but I can say that they were amazing. The staff and study coordinators made the expectations of me as a participant crystal clear and were responsive to any (and all) questions and concerns. I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to receive a vaccine early on and that I was able to potentially help others in the process. I cannot thank Moderna, their scientists, or their research teams enough for the peace of mind and protection they have provided both me and my family.

Originally I thought 2020 was going to be my year — the year I graduated, did an IronMan, traveled, lived life, worked hard, and visited my dream medical schools. Now, 2020 has been the year that reminded me to be grateful for all of the things I already had. I still got to wear a cap and gown, even if it was at home. I found a different way to work, a different way to interview at schools, and planned my own triathlon. Life being “paused” has reminded me how precious quality time with family is, the enjoyment of a good book, and how easy it is to take things for granted.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Did a Virus Trigger Your Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease– that is, a disease resulting from the immune system attacking the body. In the case of type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly attacks the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, and without insulin-producing beta cell function, one develops type 1 diabetes, and quickly. Researchers still are not 100% sure what causes type 1 diabetes, but many believe that a virus can “trigger” the body into attacking itself, resulting in disease.

Why does this happen? When a virus invades the body, the immune system starts to produce a response to fight the infection. T-cells are central to recognizing and fighting off the virus. However, if the virus has some of the same antigens as the pancreatic beta cells (in the case of type 1 diabetes), the T cells sometimes actually start attacking the body’s own beta cells. Once all of the body’s beta cells have been destroyed, type 1 diabetes is developed and diagnosed.

It can take more than a year for the body’s T-cells to destroy the majority of the beta cells, but that original viral infection is hypothesized to be a trigger in the development of type 1 diabetes.

A recent study showed that kids exposed to enteroviruses are more likely to develop type 1 diabetes. Enteroviruses are a group of viruses that usually cause mild symptoms, similar to that of the common cold. Certain strains, such as the poliovirus or hand, foot, and mouth disease, can cause more serious complications.

Researchers in Finland tested more than 1,600 stool samples from 129 children who had recently developed type 1 diabetes and 282 children without diabetes for enterovirus RNA (a marker of previous exposure to infection). They found a significant difference: 60% of the control group showed signs of prior infection (without diabetes), versus 80% of the group with type 1 diabetes.

The results also showed that children who developed type 1 diabetes were exposed to the enterovirus more than a year before their diabetes diagnosis; taking this lag time into account, the researchers proved that children with diabetes are exposed to three times more enteroviruses than children without diabetes.

vaccine against enterovirus

A vaccine against enteroviruses may help prevent type 1 diabetes. | Photo credit: Adobe Stock

Researchers are hopeful about current trials, showing vaccines against enteroviruses could potentially prevent 30-50% of new cases of type 1 diabetes, but not all infections can be prevented.

Jessica Dunne, PhD, director of discovery research at JDRF, is excited by the current research. “Enteroviruses are not the only trigger for diabetes, so it’s important to note that even if we prevented all enterovirus infections we probably wouldn’t be able to prevent all cases of type 1 diabetes. I think it would go a long way,” Dunne said.

Clearly, other genetic and environmental facts are at play in the development of type 1 diabetes, but a growing amount of research is pointing to a virus as a common trigger. Other studies have shown that pregnant mothers with antibodies from enteroviruses go on to have children who develop type 1 diabetes.

Not every virus can trigger this reaction ending in disease. The virus must have antigens that are similar enough to the antigens in beta cells (and thus could easily be confused by the immune system); those viruses include:

  • B4 strain of the coxsackie B virus
  • German measles
  • Mumps
  • Rotavirus

There is even new, mounting evidence that the current COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2 virus) pandemic could be triggering a new wave of type 1 diabetes diagnoses now and into the future.

There is still much debate in the medical community over the exact cause of type 1 diabetes, and most researchers believe it to be a mix of genetics and environmental factors, but the theory of enterovirus-triggered diabetes is gaining support from physicians and researchers alike. There is still much to be explored in the development of type 1 diabetes, but research like this is promising for the eventual development of a vaccine to help prevent new type 1 cases worldwide. Understanding viruses and their connection to the immune system can help unravel the medical mystery of type 1 diabetes without an apparent cause.

What was your experience when you were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes? Were you extremely sick with a viral illness, several months or even years before diagnosis? Do you think a virus could have triggered your diabetes? Share this post and comment with your story, below! We love hearing from our readers.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

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