Jaundice in Newborns Associated With Type 1 Diabetes
Nov. 11, 1999 (Los Angeles) -- It is not unusual for a child in the womb to
develop blood proteins that are incompatible with the corresponding proteins in
its mother's blood. Often these infants are born with jaundice, a yellowish
discoloration of the skin due to an abnormal breakdown of blood products. A new
study has found an association between this form of jaundice in newborns and a
higher occurrence of diabetes that starts in childhood, also known as type 1
However, "we are nowhere near saying that if you have a particular [type
of blood protein], your risk is increased," one of the investigators tells
In the paper, published in the October issue of the journal Diabetes
Care, lead researcher Gisela G. Dahlquist, MD, PhD, of Umeå University
Hospital in Sweden, and co-authors from Ireland and Hungary, found a strong
association between jaundice caused by incompatibility of the ABO blood protein
between mother and infant and the child's subsequent risk of developing type 1
ABO blood proteins determine the type of blood the child will have, such as
A, B, or O. Certain situations can arise where the blood type of the child will
cause a reaction or be incompatible with the mother's blood type, and thus
cause problems. If a severe reaction develops, the child may die.
Incompatibility to Rh factor, another blood protein, had no effect. The Rh
factor determines whether your blood type is positive or negative, as in B+ or
Other important diabetes risk factors included a mother older than 25, a
high blood pressure disorder during pregnancy known as preeclampsia, and lung
disease in the newborn. The authors looked at approximately 900 cases of
children who developed diabetes before age 15 from seven countries throughout
Europe, and compared them to around 2,300 children without diabetes.
"This is an interesting paper, generally well done, and an exciting
confirmation of earlier findings [by the same authors]," says Trevor
Orchard, MD, in an interview with WebMD seeking objective comment. "But
even though this is a significant finding, we're not sure what proportion of
ABO-incompatible mothers will have a child with diabetes." In other words,
he says, the actual risk "is small."
"There were some unusual findings in this study," says David Hadden,
MD, professor of endocrinology and leader of the study center at Royal Victoria
Hospital in Belfast, Northern Ireland. "It is probably not just a
statistical chance." However, he says that the risk of type 1 diabetes in a
child is still quite low, about one case in every 500 to 1,000 births both in
Europe and the U.S. "This gives a hint of one of the many potential
mechanisms behind the development of juvenile type 1 diabetes." adds
Orchard, who is with the University of Pittsburgh.
Type 1 diabetes is increasing in Europe, says Hadden. "That's what keeps
drawing us along in this study."
Signs of possible diabetes in a child include excessive thirst, failure to
eat and grow properly, 'not feeling well,' and frequent urination. If a child
has these symptoms, Hadden recommends testing the urine for sugar. "That is
often forgotten while doing more sophisticated tests," he says. "It's a
very easy diagnosis to make, but somebody has to remember to do it."