Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is scary. It is a major and life-threatening complication due to a shortage of insulin, causing symptoms like dehydration, nausea and vomiting, confusion, difficulty breathing, or even, in extreme cases, coma or death. Approximately 40 to 60 percent of people in the United States present with DKA at the time of type 1 diabetes (T1D) diagnosis.
There is a way to change that, though. It’s called screening, and it can identify people at-risk prior to a T1D diagnosis.
JDRF-funded scientists have discovered that having two or more specific autoantibodies—antibodies that are directed toward your own body or, in the case of T1D, your pancreas—means that you have an almost 100 percent chance of developing T1D.
We can screen for these autoantibodies, and JDRF-funded studies have shown that screening followed by close monitoring can help decrease DKA—by a lot—and produce other beneficial health outcomes. It also opens up the opportunity to participate in clinical trials to potentially delay or prevent this disease from occurring at all.
JDRF is working to drive new life-changing treatments that can prevent T1D from ever occurring. There are therapies in the pipeline, like teplizumab, that can delay the onset of T1D for nearly three years in people with two or more autoantibodies. This groundbreaking clinical trial conducted by TrialNet was the first time we’ve ever been able to delay the onset of T1D in humans.
Some T1D screening programs already exist. For example, TrialNet has a screening program, which has been running since 2004. Screening for antibodies in TrialNet is limited to those with a family member, but anyone who tests positive for antibodies may be eligible for a clinical trial.
This means that 85 percent of people who have autoantibodies, but no family history of the disease, are going to develop T1D, and have no idea that they will. What does this mean? It’s time to educate and make screening broadly available to significantly increase the number of people who are screened.
JDRF is launching T1Detect, a community-based education and awareness program to expand screening to the general population. The program’s aim is to make people understand what type 1 is, how screening is advantageous to the public, how they can be involved, and what to do if you are positive for autoantibodies.
How You Can Help
If you or someone you know doesn’t have T1D and hasn’t been screened, encourage them to be screened. If they have a relative with diabetes go to TrialNet.org for free testing. If they don’t have a relative, go to jdrf.org/t1detect to get started:
- Create an account on the screening portal to sign up, see payment options, and order a test kit to be sent to your home.
- Provide a few easy, painless blood samples and send your test kit back to the lab.
- Receive your autoantibody results, explanations of what they mean, and next steps through your account on the testing website. If you are positive for autoantibodies, you will also receive suggested next steps for reaching out to healthcare providers and educational resources on T1D.
If you decide to share your screening results with JDRF, you will receive further details on your results. If you are autoantibody-positive, you’ll also be equipped with education on how to monitor for signs and symptoms of T1D or enroll in a clinical trial—either preventive or, once you progress to clinical diabetes, diagnosed.
We hope to screen 5,000 people in the first year. If just one person is autoantibody-positive, and this prevents them from having DKA—and the hospital costs and worry that it brings—we have done our job to improve outcomes and eliminate DKA at diagnosis.
Already been screened? If you are positive for T1D autoantibodies, you can see if you’re eligible for a clinical trial at TrialNet.