Dr Colin Hawkes. Photo: Brian Lougheed

New diabetes research taking place on Leeside

Research is being undertaken at a Cork hospital investigating whether bacteria in the gut may cause diabetes.

This could potentially unlock a cure for the chronic disease, it was recently announced.

In a further step forward, the country’s 1st national audit of children with the condition is aiming to give youngsters the same standard of care regardless of where they live.

Around 3,000 children live with Type 1 diabetes in Ireland with a further 300-400 diagnosed every year.

But a leading consultant has said the audit, along with advances in technology, is on course to reduce the burden of the diagnosis.

Dr Colin Hawkes of CUH said: “What we are hoping to do is to arrive at a place in Ireland where we know how many children have Type 1, what their outcomes are and ensure that every child receives the best standard of care.

“Disparities exist across the country and it is not going to be an easy fix, but we are certainly moving in a positive direction to try to identify and address them.”

CUH is currently building a research programme set to be a world leader in the condition.

Ahead of World Diabetes Day which took place on Monday, Dr Hawkes, who led a major clinical research programme in North America, said his team at CUH is trying to identify microbes in the intestine that might be driving the condition.

He explained: “Microbes make the gut leaky and proteins may be crossing the gut wall and triggering the immune system response. We hope to be able to slow the rate of progression, prevent it and develop new treatments. We’re going to keep trying to find a cure, I would be hopeful but we’re not putting all our eggs in one basket.”

He insisted further funding is needed for research into identifying a cure for Type 1, in which patients’ immune systems attack the pancreas, destroying cells which make insulin – crucial for sending glucose (sugars) to cells for energy.

Not properly managed, it increases the risk of blindness, heart disease and kidney failure in adulthood.

CUH is also partnering with experts across UCC to improve how it treats children with the condition, including work that will improve how teenagers take over managing it from their parents.

New investment by the South/South West Hospital Group has meant an extra 3 diabetes nurses for CUH, while children living with Type 1 now have quicker access to technology such as glucose monitors and insulin pumps.

These remove the need for traditional finger-stick checks, piercing the skin up to 10 times a day to check blood-sugar levels.

A list in CUH of over 120 children awaiting such technology to manage their condition is likely to be cleared by late December.