There's a lot of misleading controversy about the side effects of vaccines out there. But Australian scientists have now verified that there's at least one widespread side effect of vaccination that further reinforces the benefits of these wonder treatments.
It turns out that the rotavirus vaccine, which is part of a routine vaccination schedule for Australian infants, may also have the unexpected advantage of reducing rates of Type 1 diabetes, reports MedicalXpress.com.
For the study, researchers investigated a curious correlation between a nationwide decline in Type 1 diagnoses in children aged 0-4 years from 2007 onward, and the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine as part of the routine vaccination schedule for infants, which also began in 2007.
This is the first time the rate of Type 1 diabetes in young children in Australia has fallen since the 1980s, and it raises new questions about the link between rotavirus infection and disruptions to insulin production.
"The significant decrease in Type 1 diabetes that we detected in young children after 2007 was not seen in older children aged 5-14. This suggests the young children could have been exposed to a protective factor that didn't impact older children," explained Dr. Kirsten Perrett from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute.
"We observed the decline in the rate of Type 1 diabetes in children born after 2007 coincided with the introduction of the oral rotavirus vaccine onto the Australian National Immunization Program in 2007."
Rotavirus is known to cause a severe, potentially life-threatening form of diarrhea in young infants. The vaccine has been particularly effective at eliminating this infection when administered to children aged 2 to 4 months.
The fact that the vaccine also may prevent Type 1 diabetes is unexpected, but not entirely surprising.
"Twenty years ago our team revealed an association between the appearance of immune markers of Type 1 diabetes in children and rotavirus infection. Subsequent studies in laboratory models suggested rotavirus infection of pancreatic cells can trigger an immune attack against the insulin-producing cells — similar to what occurs in Type 1 diabetes," explained Len Harrison, senior author on the study.
Researchers are now working to verify that this mechanism might also be why the rotavirus vaccine reduces the risk of Type 1 diabetes. The research may also reveal important clues about risk factors for Type 1 diabetes. It might even lead to treatments for Type 1 diabetes among those who have already developed the condition.