CMV Linked To Diabetes Risk
The Virus That Can Cause Diabetes
Chances are, you already have it. Here’s what to know
If you eat your veggies and regularly break a sweat, you’ve already improved your odds against developing diabetes. But don’t breath a sigh of relief just yet: A new study is shedding light on a mysterious virus that might be yet another potential risk factor for the disease.
The worst part? Most of us already have it.
Called CMV (short for Cytomegalovirus), the virus is usually transmitted through contact with bodily fluids, like saliva, or passed along during sexual intercourse. Usually, CMV stays dormant and rarely causes serious side effects, meaning that most of those infected never know they’ve got the bug.
In fact, CMV is so sneaky that most American adults are already infected: Between 50% and 70% of us are, says Michael Cannon, PhD, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who specializes in the virus. “Lots of us have it, almost none get sick from it,” he says. “For the vast majority, it shouldn’t be a concern.”
But CMV might not be so harmless after all, according to a new European study published in the journal Immunity and Ageing. After examining 500 elderly patients, researchers concluded that those infected with CMV were also significantly more likely to suffer from type two diabetes.
The study’s results still need to be validated in a younger population, and the research team isn’t sure why CMV might increase the risk of diabetes. They do, however, have some suspicions: In particular, they speculate that the virus might directly attack the cells of the pancreas, interfering with the organ’s important role in regulating insulin levels.
Right now, public health authorities rarely recommend treating CMV, says Cannon. “There’s not enough hard evidence that the virus causes major health problems, for most people,” he says. “But things may change.”
The good news? CMV is easily diagnosed using a simple blood test. Treatment, however, isn’t so simple. The virus can be slowed using anti-viral drugs, but an infected person is stuck with CMV for life—making those elliptical sessions and salads all the more important for keeping diabetes at bay.