ALL children could one day be screened for type 1 diabetes risk to tackle the condition at an early age.
A trial of blood checks on 20,000 kids aged three to 13 begins today to test the waters for a national programme.
It can be deadly or cause organ damage if left untreated, so medics want to catch and treat it earlier.
Experimental new treatments could even delay the onset of the illness if high-risk patients are found early.
The screening trial will be funded by Diabetes UK and carried out by Birmingham University scientists who will use finger-prick blood tests to check youngsters’ diabetes risk.
Dr Elizabeth Robertson, research director at Diabetes UK, said: “The era of being able to strike early to delay type 1 diabetes is within reach.
“The success of the next generation of treatments depends on reaching as many people as possible who could benefit, and this can only be achieved through screening programmes.
“This trial will offer vital insights that could make screening for type 1 diabetes a reality in the UK, offering hope of a better future for people at risk of developing the condition.”
The tests scan blood samples for rogue autoantibodies, which tell the body to destroy vital insulin-producing cells.
Autoantibodies can be spotted in the blood years before diabetes develops, but kids with two or more types are almost certain to get it later in life.
type 1 diabetes, which is incurable, leaves the body unable to control blood sugar levels and patients must inject insulin to manage it.
Finding those at risk of the condition will help doctors prevent diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which can send patients into a coma or kill them.
Dr Lauren Quinn, from the University of Birmingham, said: “Screening children can reduce their risk of DKA around five-fold and can help them and their families settle into the type 1 diagnosis better.”
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