A common childhood infection thought to be linked to type 1 diabetes could be preventable with a vaccine, according to a new study.
The work, underpinned by many years of JDRF research, suggests that a six-pronged vaccine could protect against coxsackieviruses – and in doing so, help prevent type 1 diabetes.
Finnish biotech company Vactech Oy, which developed the vaccine, is now partnering with US pharmaceutical company Provention Bio to begin clinical trials, thanks to an investment from JDRF.
How the vaccine could prevent type 1 diabetes
Although we don’t yet know exactly why people develop type 1 diabetes, scientists believe that it is a combination of two things: a person’s genetics (which leaves them at greater risk of developing type 1), and an influence from something in the person’s environment (which triggers the condition).
Previous JDRF-funded research has identified several of these potential triggers, including coxsackieviruses.
Coxsackieviruses are common viruses in childhood, and can cause everything from colds to hand-foot-and-mouth disease. However, many people with type 1 have evidence of a coxsackievirus infection in their pancreas.
This suggests that a vaccine against these viruses could prevent type 1 diabetes from being triggered in some people. However, there are currently no such vaccines on the market.
In this new study, led by the researchers found that a single vaccine taught the immune system to respond to all six known types of coxsackievirus – key to protecting against these infections.
And, when the researchers tested the vaccine on a type of mouse genetically prone to a condition similar to type 1 diabetes, this protection against coxsackievirus reduced their risk of developing diabetes.
Next steps for the vaccine
Even as this vaccine moves towards clinical trials, JDRF-funded scientists are continuing their research into how coxsackieviruses may cause type 1. This will be crucial to knowing who will benefit most from a vaccine, and how best to deliver it.
Conor McKeever, Research Communications Manager at JDRF, said: “Preventing type 1 is an important part of achieving a world without the condition, so it’s exciting to see this research take another step forward.”
The research also has potential implications for curing type 1 diabetes.
Conor added: “The more we learn about the immune system and why it attacks the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, the closer this brings us to finding ways to stop this from happening in people who already have type 1.
“Combined with a way to regrow the lost beta cells, our immune system research could one day lead us to a cure for type 1 diabetes.”