Diagnosing type 1 diabetes in children before complications set in could be helped using a simple, non-invasive breath test, new research suggests.
The study, conducted by researchers from Oxford, discovered a link between sweet-smelling chemical markers in the breath with harmful chemicals that build up in the blood when insulin levels are low.
The study is one of the most wide-ranging breath-based studies of children with type 1 diabetes.
Around one in four children are not diagnosed with type 1 diabetes until the onset of complications. The most common complication is diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), the symptoms of which include a serious loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, temperature, a fruity smell in the breath, and pains in the stomach.
Karen Addingto, Chief Executive of JDRF in the UK, said: “Early diagnosis of type 1 diabetes is crucial if people are to avoid being hospitalised with diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). This is life-threatening and extremely traumatic for the individual’s wider family.
“Any new knowledge from research that could doctors to diagnose people more swiftly is to be warmly welcomed.”
The study could potentially lead to a new diagnostic device, capable of identifying type 1 diabetes before the onset of diabetic ketoacidosis.
Professor Gus Hancock, co-author of the study, explained: “While breath acetone has been measured in relatively large cohorts of healthy individuals, most measurements on people with type 1 diabetes have been out on relatively small cohorts, typically made up of less than 20 people, with relatively few measurements on children.
“Our results have shown that it is realistically possible to use measurements of breath acetone to estimate blood ketones.”
The study was published in the Journal of Breath Research.

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