Pioneer of Czechoslovak diabetes research was born 100 years ago

Crystals of Insulin

The founder of Czechoslovak diabetes research Professor Jiri Syllaba was born 100 years ago. Since the pioneering days of Czech diabetes study, research in this field has made great progress, but unfortunately, the number of diabetes patients in the country has been rising as well. Almost 5 years after Professor Syllaba's death, Pavla Horakova looks at the trends and figures in the Czech Republic.

This week, Czech diabetes specialists are remembering the anniversary of Jiri Syllaba's birth at a number of lectures and meetings dedicated to the topic of diabetes. The founder of diabetes research in the former Czechoslovakia Jiri Syllaba was born on March 8, 1902 in Prague to the family of doctor Ladislav Syllaba, the personal physician of the first Czechoslovak president Tomas Garrigue Masaryk. He devoted his professional life to the study of diabetes and was awarded a number of state honours for his achievements in medicine.

According to statistics, 6 percent of the Czech population have diabetes, that's over 6 hundred thousand people. Since 1990, the number of registered diabetes patients has increased by 30 percent. I spoke to doctor Frantisek Saudek, the head of the Department of Diabetes at the Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine in Prague.

"This number is comparable with the date from most other European countries. Most of the approximately 600,000 diabetic patients registered in the Czech Republic are those in whom clinical diagnosis of diabetes was made because of symptoms of the disease. Another part of this number represents subjects in whom preventive screening was performed and, incidentally, the diagnosis of diabetes was established. In other words it means that if more frequent screenings were performed, the number of diabetic subjects would be even higher and my guess is some seven or eight percent of the whole population."

Thanks to better diagnostics, more people are identified as having diabetes and can receive their treatment earlier. The number of diabetes patients is increasing all the time and experts estimate that in 2010, there will be over 1 million diabetes patients in the Czech Republic. Doctor Saudek explains the reasons behind this trend.

"There is an increase that we may call a global trend or even epidemic of diabetes. The most important factors are obesity, inappropriate composition of food and low and irregular physical activity. This trend is typical of all countries with a western type of lifestyle and the only way to fight it is prevention. It means explanation of the problem to the public, education and identification of people with risk factors."

These facts relate to type 2 diabetes which is the most common form of the disease. Type 1 diabetes, on the other hand, is either genetic or can occur following a viral infection or owing to a malfunction of the immune system. It is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. Frantisek Saudek again.

"In comparison with type 2 diabetes which represents more than 90 percent of all cases of diabetes, type 1 diabetes is much less frequent. Nevertheless, the Czech Republic belongs to countries with rather high incidence of this type of diabetes. The explanation of the increasing trend is not clear. The standards of care for type 1 diabetes patients are high in our country, I would say, and most of the modern therapeutic measures are available and covered by health insurance companies."