A comparative study on the incidence of type 1 diabetes mellitus between children of North African migrants and Italian children in Emilia-Romagna region, Italy

Eur J Pediatr. 2022 Apr;181(4):1523-1529. doi: 10.1007/s00431-021-04340-4. Epub 2022 Jan 14.


In the last few decades, many studies have reported an increasing global incidence of type 1 diabetes. Studies on migrant populations have underlined the importance of both environmental and genetic factors.

Aims: Evaluate the incidence of type 1 diabetes in North African vs Italian children aged 0-14 years from 1 January 2015, to 31st December 2018, in Emilia-Romagna region, Italy.

Methods: Clinical and epidemiological data about childhood onset type 1 diabetes in Emilia Romagna region were retrospectively collected by the regional centers of pediatric diabetology and matched using 3 different data sources.

Results: 365 new cases were diagnosed. Total cumulative incidence was 15.4/100,000/year. North African cases showed a cumulative incidence of 53.8/100,000/year, statistically significant compared to cumulative incidence of the Italian cases alone 13.1/100,000/year (p value < 0.001). The annual incidence did not differ in the 4 years for both groups. Conclusion: The incidence of type 1 diabetes in the pediatric age (0 14 years) was significantly higher in the North African population than in the Italian one, suggesting that a mix of genetic and environmental factors may have caused the increase in newly diagnosed cases.

What is known: • The incidence of type 1 diabetes largely varies worldwide. • Study on immigrants helped to better understand the interplay role between genetics and environment.

What is new: • This is the first study focused on the incidence of children and adolescents of North African migrants in Italy. • The incidence of children and adolescents of North African migrants in Emilia Romagna region, Italy, seems to be higher than that reported in the host countries, and, above all, than that reported in highest-incidence countries in Europe and in the world.

Keywords: Autoimmune diseases; Childhood diabetes; Diabetic ketoacidosis; Type 1 diabetes epidemiology; Type 1 diabetes incidence.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1* / epidemiology
  • Emigrants and Immigrants*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Transients and Migrants*