Mercury (Hobart)

Diabetes test hope

Finger prick could save children


AUSTRALIAN researcher­s are a step closer to their bold plan of testing every child in the country for their risk of type 1 diabetes, after developing a single finger prick blood test to diagnose the chronic disease.

Immunother­apies have been shown to delay the onset of type 1 diabetes by years when used early, fuelling hopes that a lifelong reliance on insulin can be superseded by other treatments that turn off the immune attack on the pancreas before irreversib­le damage occurs.

But what is needed are cheaper and less-invasive ways of screening children to determine who is at immediate risk of decline.

The internatio­nal study, led by the Royal Melbourne Hospital and Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, analysed the blood test results from 3500 adults and children taken across multiple years.

They found that a single finger prick test taken two hours after a glucose drink could be used in place of the current multiple blood samples taken over a two-hour oral glucose tolerance challenge. The findings were published in the journal Diabetolog­ia.

Lead researcher and endocrinol­ogist Associate Professor John Wentworth said this blood test would be “really helpful as this field evolves” and help them better track the health of kids over time.

“Ultimately we have bold visions for not only testing every kid in a diabetes family, but every kid in Australia,” Professor Wentworth said.

“That’s because the vast majority don’t have family members with type 1 diabetes. About 10-15 per cent have a family member with diabetes.”

Professor Wentworth was part of an internatio­nal study two years ago that uncovered that immunother­apy could delay the onset of type 1 diabetes by two years.

“The whole ecosystem hinges on our ability to find people at risk,” he said.

“By the time people turn up to hospital needing insulin, that’s too late. They’ve lost too much of their pancreas,” Professor Wentworth said.

“We need to screen to find young kids who are at risk and work out when they should be put into a study to use immunother­apy to treat it.”

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