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Researchers seeking to connect type 1 diabetes and cleanliness

Published: February 5th, 2014

Category: News

person reading newspaper.jpg-600x450Is there connection between Type 1 diabetes and cleanliness? A closer look at Finland’s population suggests there may be.

In a recent Washington Post article, researchers detail that there may be a correlation between the lack of early exposure to a specific group of bacteria found in the intestine and weaker immune systems in Finnish children that make them more susceptible to Type 1 diabetes and other ailments such as asthma, allergies and other autoimmune diseases.

It may be surprising to learn that Finland, a country known for its cleanliness and high life expectancies, has the highest rate of type 1 diabetes in the world. With 58 out of 100,000 children being diagnosed with the disease, Finland has nearly three times the incidence of the United States with 24 cases per 100,000.

Collectively known as the “hygiene hypothesis,” researchers testing this theory are traveling to nearby Russian cities formerly part of Finland, where rates of type 1 diabetes are less than 10 per 100,000 (almost 6 times less). Microbial samples directly taken from infants and children are being collected, as well as dust samplings from homes. These samples are currently being analyzed at the Harvard/MIT Broad Institute as well as Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital.

Desmond Schatz, MD of the UF Health Diabetes Center of Excellence was  featured in the article. “It’s plausible, but it’s a long reach,” he said. “We are at a stage in understanding that a change in microbial flora in high abundance or low abundance in the human gut can precede the onset of human diabetes. It’s all well to demonstrate there may be changes, but the next step is to associate changes in bacteria with function.”

To read the full article online, please click here.

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