Environmental factors, especially viruses, are thought to play an important role in the initiation or acceleration of the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes (T1D). Data from retrospective and prospective epidemiological studies strongly suggest that enteroviruses, such as coxsackievirus B4 (CV-B4), may be associated with the development of T1D. It has also been shown that enterovirus infections are significantly more prevalent in at-risk individuals such as the siblings of diabetic patients, when they develop anti-β-cell autoantibodies or T1D, and in recently diagnosed diabetic patients, compared with control subjects. The isolation of CV-B4 from the pancreas of diabetic patients supports the hypothesis of a relationship between the virus and the disease. Furthermore, studies performed in vitro and in vivo in animal models have increased our knowledge of the role of CV-B4 in T1D by helping to clarify the pathogenic mechanisms of the infection that can lead to β-cell destruction, including direct virus-induced β-cell lysis, molecular mimicry, 'bystander activation' and viral persistence. The role of enteroviruses as the sole agents in T1D, and a causal link between these agents and T1D, have not yet been established, although arguments that support such a role for these viruses in the pathogenesis of the disease cannot be ignored. © 2008 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.
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