DIABETES is a condition where sufferers are split into either type 1 or type 2 but now experts believe thousands could be suffering from a newly-discovered variable of the condition: type 1.5 diabetes.
Researchers working on a ground-breaking study said the discovery of type 1.5 diabetes could mean adults diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in later life might actually be suffering from a strain more similar to type 1 diabetes.
They said the new study ‘highlights the uncertainty of the current classification of diabetes’.
There are two forms of the condition – type 1 diabetes occurs when the body cannot produce insulin.
One in ten people with diabetes have type 1 and it usually affects children or young adults.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or the insulin produced does not work properly and can be linked to lifestyle factors such as being overweight.
Type 1.5 is believed to share features with both types of diabetes and occurs mainly in adults.
Scientists believe it might offer more clues to accurate diagnosis and treatment of the conditions.
The type of diabetes has been informally called type 1.5 diabetes but its medical name is latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA).
Like type 1 diabetes, LADA is an indicator that an overactive immune system is damaging the body’s insulin-producing cells.
However, LADA also shares some of the same features with type 2 diabetes. For example, LADA patients do not require insulin treatments when first diagnosed – like type 2 patients.
“Correctly diagnosing subtypes of diabetes is important, because it affects how physicians manage a patient’s disease,” said Dr Struan Grant, co-author of the study.
Type 1 diabetes generally presents in childhood but may also appear first in adults while type 2 diabetes, formerly called non-insulin-dependent diabetes, typically appears in adults and has been increasing over the past several decades.
Dr Grant, and researchers from Europe, set out to establish how type 1.5 diabetes is linked its better known relatives in the largest study of its kind.
“Our finding that LADA is genetically closer to type 1 diabetes than to type 2 diabetes suggests that some proportion of patients diagnosed as adults with type 2 diabetes may actually have late-onset type 1 diabetes,” said Grant.
Dr Grant said that larger studies into the complex biology of diabetes are needed.
“As we continue to integrate genetic findings with clinical characteristics, we may be able to more accurately classify diabetes subtypes to match patients with more effective treatments,” he said.
Dr Grant worked with European scientists, led by Richard David Leslie of the University of London, and Bernhard O. Boehm, of Ulm University Medical Center, Germany and the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, a joint medical school of Imperial College London and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
The study was published in the journal BMC.