Children genetically at risk of developing type 1 diabetes are more likely to be diagnosed with the condition if they are prescribed gentamicin – an antibiotic used to treat several types of bacterial infections.

A study conducted by the Medical College of Georgia has found that the commonly used prescription drug generates a higher level of antibodies, putting people using the antibiotic at risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

During the experiment, the team of scientists analysed blood samples of 278 children and young people from the Diabetes Autoimmunity Study in the Young (DAISY) and Phenome and Genome of Diabetic Autoantibody (PAGODA). They also looked at the blood of 298 healthy individuals.

They found that more than 5% of the cohort had a higher level of antibodies. In addition, they detected that a large proportion of the group went on to develop type 1 diabetes.

According to the report, up to 10% of newborn babies are given gentamicin to prevent a severe case of sepsis.

Babies who are born prematurely are particularly at risk of developing type 1 diabetes and sepsis.

Top author Dr Sharad Purohit said: “These infections are common, and the babies need the antibiotic.

“Their own immune systems are not well developed at that juncture, and the drug may be a lifesaving therapy.”

Throughout the trial, the academics examined how antibodies and glycans are associated. Glycans are located on the surface of human cells and the cells of microorganisms, such as bacteria.

The commonly used antibiotic gentamicin is part of a class of compounds called aminoglycosides. This group of compounds are also identified as glycans because of their high sugar content.

The researchers have detected a link between the multitasking FUT2 gene and the antibodies against both gentamicin and the islet cells of the pancreas. Dr Purohit said: “I think based on our data, they are compounding risks.”

FUT2 is responsible for the composition and functional properties of glycans in mucosal tissues and bodily secretions, including human milk.

FUT2 polymorphisms may profoundly influence gut microbiota composition and host susceptibility to viral infections and chronic inflammatory disease.

Dr Purohit added: “The new study indicates the anti-carbohydrate antibodies (ACAs) may have a similar potential in type 1 diabetes.”

Co-author Dr Paul Tran said: “ACA profiling can help identify environmental exposures associated with disease and are potentially useful biomarkers for disease prediction.”

Other studies are now looking at how glycans are associated with cancer and other autoimmune conditions.

The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Get our free newsletters

Stay up to date with the latest news, research and breakthroughs.

You May Also Like

Top diabetes professor drafts risk assessment document for frontline COVID-19 staff

The health and wellbeing of frontline NHS staff has been prioritised among…

Public Health England considers low carb approach for type 2 diabetes

The low carb approach is being considered by the government to be…

Conversation about doctors’ appointments occurring virtually rumbles on

More than half of GP appointments are still being delivered remotely in…