Aims/hypothesis. Direct infection of beta cells could explain the diabetogenic effect of enteroviruses. Primary adult human beta cells are susceptible to coxsackievirus infections, which could result in impaired beta-cell function or cell death (coxsackieviruses B3, B4, B5) or both, or no apparent immediate adverse effects (coxsackievirus A9). We extended these studies to additional enterovirus serotypes including several echoviruses, some of which have been associated clinically with the development of Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus.
Methods. The patterns and consequences of enterovirus infections were investigated in cultured adult human isolated islets. Cell type-specific infection and viability were assessed by immunocytochemical methods. Beta-cell function was studied by perifusion.
Results. Poliovirus type 1/Mahoney, coxsackievirus A13, human parechovirus 1 and several echoviruses (serotypes 6, 7, 11) were capable of causing significant functional impairment (p<0.05) and beta-cell death. In contrast, echovirus serotypes 9 and 30 were not destructive. However, when several different field isolates of echovirus 30 were investigated, some of them were found to be clearly more destructive than the corresponding prototype strain. This was also true for echovirus 9. A strain isolated from a 6-week-old baby suffering from acute Type I diabetes was functionally more destructive than either of the echovirus 9 prototype strains.
Conclusion/interpretation. These observations indicate that the capacity of an enterovirus to kill human beta cells or impair their function is not entirely defined by the serotype, but in addition by as yet unidentified characteristics of the virus strain involved. Moreover, any serotype could potentially be diabetogenic.