Medics set to run new genetic tests for rare diabetes with thousands potentially unaware they have it

Sheffield’s hospitals could soon run genetic tests to spot a rare form of diabetes which thousands may have without knowing.

By David Kessen
Monday, 30th August 2021, 12:01 am

The test can also spot whether people have passed the affected gene on to their children, while the health service is training hundreds of staff across the country to be experts in the rare condition.

Known as monogenic diabetes, around 12,000 people in England are thought to have the condition, which if left undetected can mean patients struggle to manage glucose levels.

If high glucose levels go untreated it can cause blindness, amputations and greater risk of a heart attack.

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Most patients newly diagnosed with monogenic diabetes will be able to manage their condition better by taking tablets or by diet to control their glucose levels instead of having to endure often unnecessary and time-consuming insulin injections.

The test can also detect whether children have inherited the affected gene and will go on to develop monogenic diabetes, typically before the age of thirty.

The condition makes up one in 50 diabetes cases, but it is difficult to diagnose or distinguish from the more common types of the condition – type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

The NHS says it is committed to increasing access to genomic testing and to improving diabetes care across the country.

Professor Partha Kar, NHS national speciality advisor for diabetes, said: “We are already making progress against the goals set out in the NHS Long Term Plan for better diabetes care, and the rollout of this programme will mean more patients across the country will benefit from access to specialist genetic testing and optimised treatment.

“Monogenic diabetes is difficult to diagnose, and we will more easily be able to identify those who need to be referred for genetic testing by training teams on monogenic diabetes in each Trust.

“The NHS has long been at the forefront of clinical advances in care for major diseases like diabetes – being able to spot the condition from birth is just another example of how we are helping people with the condition to live longer and healthier lives.”

NHS trusts in England will be supported to put in place a team of monogenic diabetes experts to support patients – with up to 280 staff to be trained over the next year.

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