Researchers investigate potential diabetes link with gut bacteria

Researchers Investigate Potential Diabetes Link With Gut Bacteria
A team at Cork University Hospital is trying to establish whether microbes in the intestine might be driving the condition. Pic: Brian Lougheed.
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By David Young, PA

Irish researchers are exploring potential links between bacteria in the gut and the onset of diabetes.

A team at Cork University Hospital is trying to find microbes in the intestine that might be driving the condition.


Dr Colin Hawkes, a paediatric endocrinologist at CUH, spoke about the research ahead of World Diabetes Day on Monday.

He said further funding was needed for research into identifying a cure for Type 1, in which patients’ immune systems attack the pancreas, destroying cells which make insulin.

Dr Colin Hawkes, a paediatric endocrinologist at Cork University Hospital (Brian Lougheed/PA)


“Microbes make the gut leaky and proteins may be crossing the gut wall and triggering the immune system response,” he said.

“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.”

Dr Hawkes also spoke about Ireland’s first national audit of children with the condition.


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

The audit is being undertaken to ensure children receive the same standard of care regardless of where they live.

“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,” said Dr Hawkes.

“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.”


Cork University Hospital is building a research programme it hopes will be a world leader in the condition.



CUH is also partnering with experts University College Cork 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 delivered an extra three diabetes nurses for CUH with additional efforts to ensure children living with Type 1 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.

CUH said a list of more than 120 children awaiting such technology to manage their condition is likely to be cleared by late December.

In terms of future management of diabetes, Dr Hawkes predicted that either technology will advance so much that the disease is more of an inconvenience than a devastating diagnosis – or a cure will be found.

“The problem with a cure is that we don’t fully understand what causes Type 1 and we haven’t been able to figure that out for 100 years,” he said.

The medic said funding was needed to build the children’s diabetes research programme at CUH and encouraged people to donate, it they can, by visiting

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