The ELSA Study – investigating screening for Type 1 diabetes in children
An estimated four in 1,000 children have Type 1 diabetes, a serious metabolic condition where the body cannot produce enough insulin, a hormone that controls blood glucose.
Healthcare professionals at Nottingham Children’s Hospital see around 50 children who are newly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes every year.
There are currently no treatments for Type 1 diabetes, and patients must carefully manage their condition by taking insulin every day. Better screening for Type 1 diabetes can deliver significant health benefits by helping to detect children who are at greater risk of developing the disease early on.
About the ELSA Study
The ELSA Study is recruiting 20,000 children aged between three and 13 years across the UK to explore the feasibility and benefits of screening young people for type 1 diabetes. Nottingham Children’s Hospital is one of the NHS sites across the country who are recruiting for this research study.
Why is Type 1 diabetes a problem?
People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin daily to manage their condition and keep their blood glucose levels under control. Early detection of antibodies in the blood could reduce the risk of people becoming seriously unwell when they first develop diabetes.
If people are aware that they are at risk, flagging up the symptoms earlier means that patients do not present at diagnosis with potentially the life-threatening complication of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).
Around 25-30% of all children and young people newly diagnosed with diabetes present with DKA and this can cause lifelong significant problems. Sadly, DKA can even result in death.
In the ELSA Study, clinicians are testing for four antibodies (protein markers in the patients’ blood) which are markers of the risk of type 1 diabetes.
How will this research help patients?
If the ELSA study is a success, this kind of screening may be offered to all children in the UK to provide an early warning of Type 1 diabetes.
The study allows for better, earlier management of diabetes in children and young people who are living with the disease, which is important for their long-term health prospects. Type 1 diabetes can cause serious long-term health complications such as kidney damage needing dialysis, eye damage resulting in blindness and nerve damage leading to amputation.
With new treatments recently licensed for patients in the US, it may even be possible to prevent them from developing type 1 diabetes altogether in the near future.
ELSA involves performing a finger prick blood test to screen children for antibodies. After the finger prick test, participants will informed if further follow-up including more tests is required.
For more information:
If you would like more information, and to ask about your family taking part in ELSA in Nottingham, email the Children’s Research nursing team at Nottingham Children’s Hospital: