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April 3, 2001

Diagnosis and Symptoms, Other Illnesses

Question from Des Moines, Iowa, USA:

My three year old daughter was hospitalized for a month and a half because of complications relating to E. coli [a bacterial infection]. She now has symptoms of diabetes and is on 3 units of insulin a day. Our doctor has said her body may repair itself within 6-12 months. Is this a typical outcome of E. coli? Do many children come out of this? Are there any tests that can be run to determine if she will have diabetes for her lifetime?


This is not a common outcome for E. coli infections. It is unlikely that insulin will be required for a long time if this is an isolated need for insulin because of the E. coli. There is no testing available that I’m aware of that would help to predict an outcome for your daughter. It will be very important to monitor her for many months to help determine if she will have a long term need for insulin.

Additional comments from Dr. Donough O’Brien:

It is possible too that the present need for small amounts of insulin was not due directly to the E.coli infection, but to something much more common in that the infection precipitated insulin dependence in a child in whom the autoimmune disorder of type 1A diabetes had already started many months previously. It would be a good idea to talk to your daughter’s doctor about getting an islet cell antibody (ICA) test done. If this is positive, you would know that your daughter does indeed have the most common form of childhood diabetes and will require insulin in increasing doses for the foreseeable future. If it is negative, however, and she continues to need insulin, there are other much rarer forms of diabetes still to consider, but ones that may not require insulin.