Reporting Dr. Maria Simbra
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Researchers say they’ve found a link between a type of Herpes virus and Type-2 diabetes.
They say as many as 80 percent of adults over age 40 have the virus and most don’t know it.
It’s a common virus. Four out of five people over the age of 40 have had it, usually early in life, perhaps not even noticing symptoms.
“There are a lot of viral infections we are all exposed to that we don’t actually know,” says Allegheny General Hospital Endocrinologist, Stasia Miaskiewicz.
It’s called Cytomegalovirus, or CMV. It’s similar to Herpes and Chickenpox which are transmitted in body fluids and on surfaces and may cause an illness similar to Mono.
“You may even think it’s a common cold and not even know you were infected with that virus,” Miaskiewicz says.
According to a study from the Netherlands, it’s common among older people with Type-2 diabetes.
“It was very provocative. Type-2 diabetes is an epidemic, so if you find an association that isn’t expected, that makes the news,” Miaskiewicz says.
Researchers looked at more than 500 people in their late 80’s. Of those who had CMV, 17 percent also had Type-2 diabetes. Among those who never had CMV, only eight percent had diabetes.
“That doesn’t by any means say CMV infection causes diabetes,” Miaskiewicz says.
In other studies looking at younger people, no link has been seen between the two.
The virus may affect the pancreas, the gland that makes the sugar-processing hormone, insulin.
Diabetes also may affect the immune system, making CMV infection more likely. While these are interesting theories, this study shows only a link but not cause.
The causes we know about include a lack of physical activity and obesity.
To more strongly suggest cause and effect, a different type of study would be needed, following people from early life over many years, and tracking what viruses and health conditions they develop. Even so, there’s no standard treatment for CMV, which would make this a challenging issue.