JDRF launches pilot study of general population screening for type 1 diabetes

August 12, 2021

Last year, JDRF appointed Dr Kirstine Bell from the Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney, to lead a pilot study to screen for risk of type 1 diabetes in the general population. Today, Dr Bell launched the national screening project and revealed new details about what it will involve.

“Children are often diagnosed with type 1 diabetes too late, and around 1 in 3 end up hospitalised in intensive care with life-threatening diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA),” Dr Bell said. “Early diagnosis is essential to avoid this outcome, improve long-term health and better support families. 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.”

The pilot study will compare three different approaches to general population screening in a head-to-head clinical trial. The models will target children of different ages – from newborn through to 6-year-olds – and will involve islet autoantibody testing, genetic testing, or a combination of both.

A total of 9,000 children across Australia will take part in the study, with 3,000 in each group.

The aim of the pilot study is to determine the most feasible and cost-effective method of screening, which can then be implemented in the wider Australian population.

The data gathered will also form part of a comprehensive report for the Australian Government, detailing the benefits that implementing a national screening program for T1D could have.

Dr Bell said “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. A screening program could have a real benefit for families by reducing the burden of DKA and its lifelong health impacts.”

In addition to preventing DKA, a screening program has the potential to accelerate the development of new preventative therapies for T1D, by identifying children at an early stage of disease who can take part in clinical trials.

The pilot study is funded by JDRF and will run for 3 years. Recruitment is due to commence in 2022.

Read more about the benefits of screening for T1D here.