A cheap, fast, genetic test could help doctors more easily distinguish between type 1 and type 2 diabetes when diagnosing patients. Jim Drury reports.
Radiographer Paul Martin was told wrongly he had type 2 diabetes. He's one of many diabetic patients to be diagnosed with the incorrect version of the disease, both of which take very different forms. SOUNDBITE (English) PAUL MARTIN, RADIOGRAPHER AND TYPE ONE DIABETIC, SAYING: "So they put me on tablets - so metformin and glycoside and then I was able to just continue taking those for months until I saw a consultant who then said that my diabetes had got worse. So I was actually diagnosed as type 1 then and introduced to insulin." Now his condition has stabilised, thanks to regular insulin injections. For others, misdiagnosis can lead to severe health complications, even death. Type 1 diabetes is mostly diagnosed in the young and requires daily injections, while type 2 is strongly linked to obesity, and can be controlled through improved diet and weight loss. Current diagnosis is based mostly on a patient's age and weight. A British doctor wants to change that. He's developed a genetic test which he says is cheap and fast. SOUNDBITE (English) DR RICHARD ORAM, UNIVERSITY OF EXETER MEDICAL SCHOOL, SAYING: "If someone could have a blood sample taken it would be sent to our lab here and have the genetic risk score tested. What we think is better for people with diabetes both in the UK and around the rest of the world is if their local hospital could do this test on a bench-side machine." Those judged to have either diabetes type would be sent for more extensive tests to confirm diagnosis. Leading research charity Diabetes UK welcomes the research. SOUNDBITE (English) CLAIRE GORDON, REGIONAL MANAGER FOR DIABETES UK IN SOUTH WEST, SAYING: "They're looking at making it a very cheap process, so people can literally have a phone app that will help them determine whether it's type 1 or type 2, and it will be cheap enough that you can do it universally, so one of the problems with lots of research is that things cost a lot of money. This is really great because it identifies what the risk of type 1 and type 2 are and means you're much likely to get the right diagnosis quickly." Our age of growing obesity is making diabetes diagnosis more difficult than ever for doctors. But developers of this test think it will be a huge help - saving time and money, and improving health outcomes for patients.