02 November 2022
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Researchers from the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) have shown that a blood test for early diagnosis of type 1 diabetes can prevent serious illness and hospitalisation in children. The innovative test is a finger prick sample that is collected in the home and mailed to the lab. 

The study, led by RMH endocrinologist and WEHI clinical-scientist Associate Professor John Wentworth looked at over 17,000 children and young adults who were screened for type 1 diabetes using a regular blood test.

“The in-home finger prick test allows us to get a result back to families sooner,” said A/Prof John Wentworth. “Type 1 diabetes can be very difficult to identify in children so early diagnosis is really important.

“The finger prick test will allow us to start treatment before kids get really sick and will give us time to ensure families have enough time to learn how to manage type 1 diabetes, and the complexity of diet and insulin therapy,” he added.

The study primarily focused on families, due to the risk of disease being 15 times greater than the general population. However, only one in 10 newly diagnosed children have a family history of type 1 diabetes so screening the entire population will be essential.

“The aim of this study is to be able to diagnose type 1 diabetes early in as many children as we can,” said A/Prof Wentworth.

“Early diagnosis prevents serious illness and affords opportunities to use immunotherapy to delay progression to insulin injections,” he added.

The team of researchers are the first to use the blood spot assay to screen diabetes in Australia, and the RMH is the first in the world to prove that blood samples collected in the home is a suitable way to prevent type 1 diabetes.

“We want to make type 1 diabetes screening accessible to every Australian child no matter where they live. Our recent work has proven that we can do this cheaply, accurately, and conveniently,” added A/Prof Wentworth.

This work was made possible with support from Diabetes Australia, Lions Australia Diabetes Foundation, JDRF, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council and the Victorian Government.

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For more information about this story, contact Communications on (03) 9342 7000 or email mh-communications@mh.org.au