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March 6, 1987

Search Begins for 'Silent' Endocrine Infections; Molecular Probes Seek Evidence of Viruses

JAMA. 1987;257(9):1145-1149. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03390090015004

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AFTER A DECADE of research, investigators from the Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation in La Jolla, Calif, are on the brink of clinical testing of a novel hypothesis of viral infection. They will be collecting tissue samples to search for evidence of so-called "silent infections."

Many have speculated on the possibility that human endocrine disorders, including diabetes, were caused by viruses (JAMA 1978;240:1219-1225). While rare cases of virus-induced diabetes have been reported (N Engl J Med 1979;300:1173-1179; Lancet 1980;2:354-358), in most instances, people suffering from such disorders simply don't have the usual evidence of viral infection— cell lysis, necrosis, and inflammation.

Abner L. Notkins, MD, a diabetes specialist with the National Institute for Dental Research in Bethesda, Md., is rooting for the Scripps group. He thinks their work "is at the very frontier" and may eventually add a "new dimension" to the way clinicians look at disease. However, it is