Widespread screening for the early indications of type 1 diabetes can dramatically reduce the risk of diabetic ketoacidosis in children, according to new research from the JDRF-funded Fr1da study.
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a potentially life-threatening complication of type 1 diabetes that occurs when the body has a severe lack of insulin.
In the UK, around 25 per cent of children who develop type 1 are diagnosed so late that they are hospitalised with DKA. In the US, the proportion of children who have DKA at diagnosis is more than 40 per cent.
Yet, by screening more than 90,000 pre-school children across Bavaria, Germany, the Fr1da study managed to bring this number down to just five per cent.
The results were published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association.
Among the 90,000 children screened, Fr1da identified 280 children whose immune systems showed the early signs of developing type 1.
This allowed these children to be monitored more closely than they would otherwise have been.
Of the screened children, 54 went on to develop type 1 during the research – and only five per cent had DKA at diagnosis.
The research shows that large-scale screening programmes are possible, and that there are clear benefits to getting an early diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.
Professor Anette-Gabriele Ziegler, who leads the Fr1da study, will now expand its reach, with the research team extending screening tests to children aged 9-10 years.
The researchers will also perform a cost-benefit analysis of the screening programme, which would be vital evidence for making screening for type 1 diabetes a routine part of healthcare systems.
Benefits of early diagnosis
Conor McKeever, Research Communications Manager at JDRF, said: “Diabetic ketoacidosis is a life-threatening condition that is still far too common in children who are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
“That’s why it’s so encouraging to see that Fr1da’s screening programme was able to cut this figure so dramatically, sparing many families a potentially traumatic trip to hospital.
“It’s also further evidence that a screening programme can identify people at high-risk of developing type 1, which could make it easier to enrol them in clinical trials aimed at halting or delaying their progression towards type 1.”