Diagnosed at Birth: A New Diabetes Screening Test

Many parents only learn that their child has type 1 diabetes after a terrifying, life-threatening incident. A child may show signs of DKA, leading parents to rush their poor little one to the emergency room. And though the boy or girl is cared for and safe in the hospital, parents and their type 1 children will head home with life-altering news – news that can leave them feeling anxious, frazzled, and unprepared.

But two scientists in Germany are seeking to put an end to this anxiety-inducing experience with an inexpensive screening test that determines a child's risk for diabetes.

Screening For Type 1 Diabetes

The test they've developed, known as the Fr1da study, looks for antibodies in the blood that could destroy beta cells in the pancreas, thus leading to type 1 diabetes. These antibodies can develop as early as the first 2 years in a child's life.

Current testing methods are very expensive and require more blood than an infant can provide for an accurate reading. By contrast, the Fr1da study is intended for babies between one and two years of age. The screening uses only a tiny amount of blood and preliminary tests have proven it to be fast and cheap to conduct.

Time To Prepare

While developers contend that early testing cannot help parents cure their child of type 1 diabetes, it can give parents time to prepare and learn about proper glucose control. This, they believe, will help eliminate psychological factors that contribute to type 1 complications.

Researchers began testing the Fr1da study on young children in Germany in 2015. Of the nearly 27,000 children they've tested so far, 105 tested positive for type 1. On further study, 80% of those tests were confirmed, and four children have already been officially diagnosed with the condition.

But what is more interesting about this study is the effect the screening has had on these children and their families. After testing positive for type 1 diabetes, the research team provided diabetes education and counseling to the children and their families. Follow-up studies have shown that since receiving a positive screening, 89% of these children have normal blood sugar control. The scientists equate this success with the families' ability to prepare and monitor their child's blood sugar levels.

At this point, the Fr1da study is still in testing phases. But if their research proves successful, many children in the future could be happier and healthier.

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