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Research

Dr. Kirstine Bell launches the type 1 diabetes National Screening Pilot

JDRF
JDRF
August 25, 2022

In July of this year, the Type 1 Diabetes National Screening Pilot was launched, funded by JDRF and lead by Dr Kristine Bell from the Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney.    

This pilot is aiming to identify children who are at risk of developing type 1 diabetes (T1D) early, to help avoid traumatic diagnosis experiences, improve disease prognosis, and provide opportunities for intervention in future.  

Why is screening for T1D important?  

Three Australian children are diagnosed with T1D every day, and of those, one-third are not diagnosed until they require emergency medical care.   

This is often because the signs and symptoms of T1D, like thirst and fatigue, can be missed or mistaken for other minor childhood concerns, and because 90 per cent of those diagnosed have no family history of T1D – so it comes as a complete shock.   

Screening for T1D at a population level is therefore essential for detecting a majority of the children at risk of diagnosis. 

As Dr Bell says, The vast majority of people who develop T1D don’t have a family history, so the best way to identify people early is through general population screening” 

Screening for T1D has been shown to support earlier diagnosis, prior to a child showing clinical signs of the condition or presenting with diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a life-threatening complication of diabetes that requires admission to intensive care.  

This type of screening is only possible due to a new T1D staging classification that identifies two early, pre-symptomatic stages (stages 1 and 2) of T1D that mark the onset of the condition rather than the previously late and symptomatic diagnosis (stage 3), when the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas have already been destroyed.  

Stages 1 and 2 of T1D can be present for months or years prior to the onset of symptoms and can be detected through simple screening.     

How is the Type 1 Diabetes Screening Pilot Study being conducted?  

The pilot program will be rolled out across five states and will compare differing screening methods, including dried bloodspot testing in newborns and older children, and saliva samples in infants. Each method is simple, safe, effective and will be provided at no cost to families in the pilot locations.  

The pilot is aiming to recruit 9,000 participants, 3,000 from each cohort, and families in select locations and sites will be invited to participate.   

The findings will provide the evidence base to determine the most appropriate model for adoption in Australia and provide families who participate the benefits of early detection.   

Dr Bell says, this pilot study will be a pivotal first step in achieving our vision for type 1 diabetes screening to be implemented in routine healthcare across Australia.”  

Screening is also an essential step in the T1D journey as it opens avenues to intercept the condition further down the track, as participants who are identified with early-stage T1D could be invited to participate in clinical trials for preventative treatments also under investigation.  

Most children who are screened will receive a normal test result. For those who are identified with early-stage T1D, they are likely to still feel perfectly well with no symptoms and will be referred to a childhood diabetes specialist for ongoing care and monitoring.    

What impact does study hope to have for T1D? 

The overall goal of the pilot is to make screening for T1D available for every child in Australia. If successful, Australia could be the first country in the world to make that a reality, completely transforming the trajectory of T1D care and putting us in good stead to become the leader for T1D care internationally.    

How can I get involved or learn more about the study? 

To find out more about the Type 1 Diabetes National Screening Pilot, visit www.KidsDiabetesScreen.com.au    

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