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September 15, 1978

Viral link sought in juvenile diabetes

JAMA. 1978;240(12):1219-1225. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03290120013002

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Research in progress at the National Institutes of Health and elsewhere so far supports the suggestion that viruses are involved in the onset of diabetes mellitus in susceptible children.

Viruses long have been suspect in juvenile diabetes. A hypothesis linking the disease with mumps myxovirus was formulated as early as 1864. But troublesome questions remain. For example, why has juvenile diabetes been relatively rare (only about one in ten cases of diabetes is of the juvenile type) when mumps—at least until arrival of the vaccine—has been comparatively common?

Among those exploring possible links between viruses and diabetes are Abner Louis Notkins, MD, and co-workers in the Laboratory of Oral Medicine, National Institute of Dental Research (NIDR), Bethesda, Md. They now report evidence that mumps virus can infect and destroy pancreatic β cells cultured from human cadavers.

However, at the American Diabetes Association's annual meeting in Boston, Dr Notkins emphasized that