Is this vaccination behind a drop in paediatric type 1 diabetes cases?

Oral rotavirus vaccine given to infants may have a protective effect, say Aussie researchers

Australian researchers have made a link between the introduction of routine rotavirus vaccination for babies and a drop in the incidence of type 1 diabetes in younger children.

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While cases of type 1 diabetes have been rising in Australia and worldwide over the past few decades, a Melbourne study has found the rate declined in children aged 0-4 from 2007, the year the oral rotavirus vaccine was introduced to the National Immunisation Program for infants aged between six weeks and six months.

The research, published in JAMA Pediatrics, claims to be the first evidence of such a link. 

However, it follows an earlier study that suggested natural rotavirus infection maybe a risk factor for type 1 diabetes.

Researchers from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and Walter and Eliza Hall Institute compared the number of children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the eight years before the introduction of the vaccine in 2007 and the eight years afterwards.

Using publicly available data, the team found that after 2007 the rate of type 1 diabetes decreased in children aged 0-4.

But the decline was not seen in older children who had not routinely been immunised.

The findings suggest young children could have been exposed to a protective factor that didn’t impact older children, says lead author 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 Immunisation Program in 2007,” Dr Perrett said in a statement.

The researchers found a mean rate of 12.7 cases of type 1 diabetes per 100,000 children aged 0-14 between 2000 and 2015.

In children aged 0-4, the number of incident cases decreased by 14% after the introduction of the oral vaccine.

“In children aged 5-9 and 10-14 there was no change in the number of incident cases or temporal differences in the entire 16-year period,” the authors wrote in the research letter.

“We report what is to our knowledge the first evidence of a decline in the incidence of type 1 diabetes after the introduction of oral rotavirus vaccine into a routine immunisation schedule.”

More information: JAMA Pediatrics 2019.