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Still Reason to Test

Being born premature shouldn't prevent infants from undergoing genetic testing for neonatal diabetes, Reuters Health reports.

High blood sugar levels in preterm infants is usually chalked up to incomplete development of the pancreas, but a study appearing in Pediatrics says a genetic cause for such hyperglycemia is still possible. University of Exeter Medical School's Andrew Hattersley and his colleagues studied 750 patients who'd been diagnosed with diabetes before the age of 6 months, and compared the genetic etiology and clinical characteristics of the babies who were born preterm to those born at term. They in particular focused on mutations in KCNJ11, ABCC8, and INS, genes that have previously been linked to neonatal diabetes.

While 83 percent of the term infants with diabetes had a genetic basis for their diabetes, so did two thirds of the preterm infants. In particular, the researchers note that Methylation defects at chromosome 6q24 and GATA6 mutations were more common among preterm infants than term infants.

"Although hyperglycemia in the very preterm infant (<32 completed weeks) makes a monogenic cause less likely, it cannot be excluded as 31 percent of patients in this group had a genetic cause identified," Hattersley and his colleagues write in their paper.

"This means," they add, "that prematurity should not deter clinicians from referring preterm patients with hyperglycemia for genetic testing."