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Children's Health

Blood Test May Predict Type 1 Diabetes in Children

Evidence of two autoantibodies signaled a 70 percent risk, researchers say
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More than 13,000 youngsters were recruited in all. During the study follow-up, the researchers found that nearly 1,100 children -- or about 8 percent of the total group -- developed one or more autoantibodies, which are markers for the destruction of the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.

The vast majority of the children, despite their higher risk, remained free of type 1 diabetes and free of signs that the disease might develop.

"Autoantibodies are a marker for the risk of diabetes. [But] they are just markers; they are not causing the disease," said Dr. Joel Zonszein, director of the Clinical Diabetes Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

Of the children who developed autoantibodies, 585 developed two or more. The remaining 474 children had just one autoantibody, according to the study.

In children with multiple autoantibodies, 43.5 percent developed type 1 diabetes within five years, about 70 percent had diabetes after 10 years and about 84 percent had the condition after 15 years. At the 10-year mark, just 14.5 percent of children with a single autoantibody had developed type 1 diabetes.

The researchers also found that children who had multiple autoantibodies before age 3 were more likely to quickly develop type 1 diabetes. Children with certain genotypes -- the HLA genotype DR3/DR4-DQ8 -- were more likely to develop type 1 diabetes faster. And girls were more likely to progress to type 1 diabetes faster than boys if they had multiple autoantibodies, according to the study.

"Findings from this study suggest there should be a greater emphasis for [people with multiple autoantibodies] to be enrolled in studies that could delay or prevent type 1 diabetes," Skyler said.

Zonszein said these findings can help better predict who is at high risk for type 1 diabetes. "[However], we're still a long way from stopping the development of type 1 diabetes," he added.

He also noted that the children in the studies were almost all white, so these findings might not translate to other populations, such as blacks or Hispanics.

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