Kaitlin A. Davis and Andrew Mehle discuss the research and context behind the new PLOS Pathogens Pearls article, “Does rotavirus turn on type 1 diabetes?”.

There is a growing appreciation that viral infections can have long lasting impacts, well after the original infection has been cleared. One example is the proposed connection between childhood infections with rotavirus and the subsequent development of type 1 diabetes. As highlighted in a PLOS Pathogens Pearls article this month, new evidence supports this correlation and suggests that vaccination against rotavirus may contribute to a global decrease in type 1 diabetes prevalence among young children. This surprising effect of vaccination could be the first example of primary prevention of type 1 diabetes, something not currently possible.

Rotavirus, a member of the Reoviridae family, is a major cause of infantile diarrheal disease worldwide, accounting for over 215,000 deaths annually. In a powerful demonstration of the positive effects of public health campaigns, mortality associated with rotavirus infection has substantially decreased since the introduction of rotavirus vaccines. Now, multiple studies have described an associated decrease in type 1 diabetes incidence following vaccination.

iStock, MarianVejcik

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