VirDiab is an international collaborative project on the role of enterovirus infections in type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a common chronic disease mainly arising in children and young people. In Europe, its incidence is high and steadily increasing. The disease is caused by the destruction of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas and is treated by daily injections of insulin. Many studies have suggested that enterovirus infections can induce this process. This study aims to confirm the link between enterovirus infections and type 1 diabetes in an internationally standardised project. The final goal is to find out if type 1 diabetes can be prevented by an enterovirus vaccine and provide information needed for the development of such vaccines.

The main aims are

  • To confirm and greatly extend previous studies, which have suggested a link between enterovirus infections and type 1 diabetes by carrying out a standardised multi-centre study in five EU countries
  • To identify the molecular determinants of diabetogenic enterovirus strains (serotype and gene sequence). This is important for the pathogenetic aspects and for the development of effective and safe vaccines.
  • To standardise the methods used for the evaluation of the link between enterovirus infections and type 1 diabetes.

Study subjects include newly diagnosed type 1 diabetic children from five European countries with varying incidence of type 1 diabetes and carefully matched control subjects. In addition, a birth cohort series will be prospectively studied in which susceptible children will be followed from birth and regularly monitored for the appearance of diabetes-related autoantibodies or diabetes itself.

Virus analyses will be carried out in collaboration with four independent virus laboratories using standardized methods. Enterovirus infections will be documented from diabetic and control subjects by detecting enterovirus genome by RT-PCR in the whole blood, mononuclear cells, serum and stools and by antibody determinations from serum. The production of interferon-alpha will be analysed as an additional marker of virus infection. The serotype and nucleotide sequence of the enterovirus strains originating from diabetic children will be compared to strains derived from control subjects as well as to enterovirus reference strains.

The project “Enterovirus infections as a risk factor for type 1 Diabetes – Viruses in Diabetes” (VirDiab) is funded by the European Commission under the Quality of Life programme (Key Action Line 2: Control of Infectious Diseases). Duration of project is 3 years: Dec 1st 2001 – Nov 30th 2004.

For further information please contact:

Professor Heikki Hyöty, MD, PhD, Professor of Virology
Tampere University, Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology
E-mail: heikki.hyoty(at)