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Study records increased diabetes prevalence in Chennai

By M. Dinesh Varma

CHENNAI, MARCH 11. A study of the Chennai population has recorded a diabetes prevalence of 15.5 per cent, representing a quantum leap from around 2 per cent in the 1970s.

This data emerged from a scrutiny of patients shortlisted from a 2001 survey conducted by the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation (MDRF). Titled the Chennai Urban Rural Epidemiology Study (CURES), the survey covered 26,000 patients. The basic blood sugar tests revealed a prevalence of around 16 per cent.

The second phase involved a repeat survey of 10 per cent of the original sample size. This sub-sample — 2,600 patients — was subjected to detailed glucose tolerance tests to arrive at the revised prevalence rate. These patients will be followed up for a 10-year period.

"Though low in numbers, a closer look at this proportion of patients is already throwing up a significant insight into the diabetes phenomenon," V. Mohan, MDRF president, said, on the sidelines of a three-day national seminar on non-communicable diseases. A survey of the rural population is being taken up in a phased manner. Preliminary results do not point to any significant divide in urban-rural diabetes prevalence, says Dr. Mohan.

Research on genes

The Genetics Research division of the MDRF has identified at least three genes specific to the Indian diabetic population from studies based on groups of Indians in the country, those living in the United States as well as a sample population in the U.S.

The research team is looking at these genes in the insulin pathway and their roles in increasing susceptibility to diabetes. It is also examining whether a few genes, conventionally thought of as providing protection from diabetes, actually set off the opposite effect in the Indian population.

The MDRF researchers have put together a `Diabetes Risk Score' to identify the problem through a four-point questionnaire. The questionnaire-enabled clinical evaluation, which is expected to become a valid tool in diagnosis, has so far returned an accuracy rate of 80 per cent.

Prevention campaign

As a sequel to its CURES, the MDRF has launched a multipronged diabetes prevention campaign involving public education, screening camps and lifestyle counselling. Targeting a million city residents, the Prevention, Awareness, Counselling and Evaluation (PACE) has screened 13,005 persons in diabetes camps conducted across the city. The project is expected to screen nearly 2 lakh residents, exceeding the 50,000-target in its three-year time frame.

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