A team of German scientists has found that two common herpes viruses may contribute to impaired glucose metabolism and an increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D) among infected people. The findings of the study were published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]). The study was conducted by Dr. Tim Woelfle at Ludwig-Maximilians University and Helmholtz Munich, Germany, and colleagues.
Herpes viruses are one of the most prevalent viruses in humans. Currently, there are eight known types of Herpes viruses: herpes simplex viruses (HSV) 1 and 2, varicella-zoster virus (VZV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), cytomegalovirus (CMV), and human herpesviruses (HHV) 6, 7 and 8. All the varieties cause lifelong latent infections in their hosts after an initial, usually mild or asymptomatic primary infection, as per the researchers.
The study was based on health data for 1967 patients in the KORA (Cooperative Health Research in the Augsburg Region) which is a population-based health research platform in the south of Germany. According to the scientists, the participants underwent detailed health examinations at baseline (2006-2008) and at follow-up (2013-2014). The examinations included testing for the presence of human herpesviruses, oral glucose tolerance tests (OGTT), and measurement of glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) (a measure of blood sugar control over the previous 3 months).
During the initial phase of the study, the blood testing revealed that EBV was the most prevalent herpes virus with 98 percent of the sample group being seropositive, followed by HSV1 (88 percent), HHV7 (85 percent), VZV (79 percent), CMV (46 percent), HHV6 (39 percent) and HSV2 (11 percent).
“Our study suggested that while (pre)diabetes incidence was primarily explained by age, BMI, cholesterol and fasting glucose, both HSV2 and CMV added additional complementary risk information, despite high viral prevalence and co-occurrence,” the scientists stated.
The researchers commented that the outcomes of the study highlight the link between viruses and prediabetes. However, they also maintained that there is a need for more research evaluating public health viral prevention strategies, possibly including the development of effective vaccines against herpesviruses.