1 chance in 10
In Belgium, the team of prof. dr. Kristina Casteels, paediatric endocrinologist in the University Hospitals Leuven, aims to trace babies of up to three months with an increased risk of type 1 diabetes. In the so-called Freder1k trial, one drop of blood is enough to determine whether a child has an increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes later. Professor Casteels, the leader of the Belgian trial, says: “A child like that has 1 chance in 10 of developing the disease. The normal risk is 1 in 250.” In the meantime, infants can also be screened in 9 other Belgian centres.
The aim of the trial is to screen 300.000 children by 2022. “And we’re making good progress with the 100,000th screening”, professor Casteels says. “What’s more, it shows that families are aware of the gravity of the disease and wish to know the risk for their children." Out of the 100,000 babies 1,500 were screened in the University Hospitals Leuven.
If a child turns out to have an increased risk, parent can choose to participate in a second trial that was recently started. The POInT trial is aimed at the prevention of type 1 diabetes. The babies are administered small amounts of oral insulin powder to ‘educate’ their immune system, so that it won’t fight insulin and insulin-producing cells.
Professor Casteels concludes: “Ultimately we hope to be able to actually treat children with an increased risk. But even without that, this trial is already a big step forward in our vision of a world without type 1 diabetes. Early detection of an increased risk means we can provide the right recommendation and the best medical care in the trial centres.”.