Aims/hypothesis: Accumulated data suggest that infections in early life contribute to the development of type 1 diabetes. Using data from the Trial to Reduce IDDM in the Genetically at Risk (TRIGR), we set out to assess whether children who later developed diabetes-related autoantibodies and/or clinical type 1 diabetes had different exposure to infections early in life compared with those who did not. Methods: A cohort of 2159 children with an affected first-degree relative and HLA-conferred susceptibility to type 1 diabetes were recruited between 2002 and 2007 and followed until 2017. Infections were registered prospectively. The relationship between infections in the first year of life and the development of autoantibodies or clinical type 1 diabetes was analysed using univariable and multivariable Cox regression models. As this study was exploratory, no adjustment was made for multiple comparisons. Results: Adjusting for HLA, sex, breastfeeding duration and birth order, those who had seven or more infections during their first year of life were more likely to develop at least one positive type 1 diabetes-related autoantibody (p=0.028, HR 9.166 [95% CI 1.277, 65.81]) compared with those who had no infections. Those who had their first viral infection aged between 6 and 12 months were less likely to develop at least one positive type 1 diabetes-related antibody (p=0.043, HR 0.828 [95% CI 0.690, 0.994]) or multiple antibodies (p=0.0351, HR 0.664 [95% CI 0.453, 0.972]). Those who had ever had an unspecified bacterial infection were more likely to develop at least one positive type 1 diabetes-related autoantibody (p=0.013, HR 1.412 [95% CI 1.075, 1.854]), to develop multiple antibodies (p=0.037, HR 1.652 [95% CI 1.030, 2.649]) and to develop clinical type 1 diabetes (p=0.011, HR 2.066 [95% CI 1.182, 3.613]). Conclusions/interpretation: We found weak support for the assumption that viral infections early in life may initiate the autoimmune process or later development of type 1 diabetes. In contrast, certain bacterial infections appeared to increase the risk of both multiple autoantibodies and clinical type 1 diabetes.
- Early infections
- Type 1 diabetes