Berlin: Most people infected with cytomegalovirus (CMV) carry it for a lifetime without any ill effects, but should the dormant virus become active, because of a weakened immune system, it could make you a diabetic.
New research by Leiden University Medical Centre and University of Tubingen Medical Schools in Germany shows that CMV infection is a significant risk factor for the type 2 diabetes in the elderly.
Obesity, inactivity and aging are known to be tied to insulin resistance, one of the first signs of diabetes.
However, only a third of those with insulin resistance go on the develop type 2 diabetes, according to a Leiden and Tubingen statement.
So what marks these people as different? Why do their pancreas` fail? Genetic and environmental factors are thought to play a part but so also does inflammation.
People with type 2 diabetes usually have raised levels of biological markers for inflammation such as elevated C reactive protein (CRP) and larger numbers of active white blood cells.
CRP, synthesised by the liver, is used mainly as a marker of inflammation, which is how the immunue system respond to an infection or a disease.
Chronic infections, including CMV, can "stress" the immune system and when researchers from Leiden Tubingen Universities compared glucose regulation with antibodies to CMV in over 500 participants of the Leiden 85-plus Study, they found that having CMV was associated with type 2 diabetes.
The researchers suggest that CMV could be either acting directly on pancreatic cells or indirectly by causing the immune system attacking the pancreas.