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GP researchers have laid the groundwork for rapid diabetes screening in general practice after quantifying the major risk factors associated with the


Their study of 3,541 patient records found searching for multiple risk factors on GPs' computer systems could quickly and effectively identify high-risk patients.

Study researcher Dr Ahzar Farooqi, a GP in Leicester and member of the steering committee of the Primary Care Diabetes Society, said the data would help GPs narrow their search for cases of diabetes to patients at the highest risk.

'It will help identify those who ought to be screened because if you screen the whole population, it's a big task. The more information you have on who to target the better,' he said.

The study, presented earlier this week at the American Diabetes Association annual conference in San Diego, identified 168 patients with type 2 diabetes and calculated positive predictive values for single and multiple risk factors.

High body mass index, known cerebrovascular or peripheral vascular disease and past history of impaired glucose tolerance were the single factors with the highest predictive values (see box, right).

One in seven patients with a combination of BMI over 30, hypertension and family history of diabetes had the disease, as did one in eight of those with a BMI over 30, hypertension and dyslipidaemia.

Dr Peter Tasker, a GP in Kings Lynn and GPwSI in diabetes, said the data would be 'very useful' for GPs.

'It's something we've been doing in a subliminal way for a long time. It would be very useful because you'd be

picking up patients before

they are symptomatic,' he said.

But Professor Mike Pringle, professor of general practice at the University of Nottingham, said GPs would have to focus on patients with multiple risk factors, as only one in 20 of those with single risk factors had the disease.

'On this data population screening targeted at those with one risk factor cannot be recommended,' he said.

Dr Farooqi is also taking part in the Department of Health's national Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Stroke Prevention Project.

He said: 'There will eventually be national recommendations based on the studies which will probably be included in the QOF.'

By Emma Wilkinson

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