Can HbA1c Alone Be Safely Used to Guide Insulin Therapy in African Youth with Type 1 Diabetes?

Thereza Piloya-Were, Makerere University College of Health Sciences
Lucy W. Mungai, University of Nairobi
Antoinette Moran, University of Minnesota Medical School
Lauren M. Yauch, University of Minnesota Medical School
Nicholas Christakis, LSU Health Sciences Center - New Orleans
Lin Zhang, School of Public Health
Robert McCarter, The George Washington University
Stuart Chalew, LSU Health Sciences Center - New Orleans


Introduction. The relationship of HbA1c versus the mean blood glucose (MBG) is an important guide for diabetes management but may differ between ethnic groups. In Africa, the patient's glucose information is limited or unavailable and the management is largely guided by HbA1c. We sought to determine if the reference data derived from the non-African populations led to an appropriate estimation of MBG from HbA1c for the East African patients. Methods. We examined the relationship of HbA1c versus MBG obtained by the continuous glucose monitoring in a group of East African youth having type 1 diabetes in Kenya and Uganda (n = 54) compared with the data obtained from A1c-derived average glucose (ADAG) and glucose management indicator (GMI) studies. A self-identified White (European heritage) population of youth (n = 89) with type 1 diabetes, 3-18 years old, living in New Orleans, LA, USA metropolitan area (NOLA), was studied using CGM as an additional reference. Results. The regression equation for the African cohort was MBG (mg/dL) = 32.0 + 16.73 × HbA1c (%), r = 0.55, p<0.0001. In general, the use of the non-African references considerably overestimated MBG from HbA1c for the East African population. For example, an HbA1c = 9% (74.9 mmol/mol) corresponded to an MBG = 183 mg/dL (10.1 mmol/L) in the East African group, but 212 mg/dL (11.7 mmol/L) using ADAG, 237 mg/dL (13.1 mmol/L) using GMI and 249 mg/dL (13.8 mmol/L) using NOLA reference. The reported occurrence of serious hypoglycemia among the African patients in the year prior to the study was 21%. A reference table of HbA1c versus MBG from the East African patients was generated. Conclusions. The use of non-African-derived reference data to estimate MBG from HbA1c generally led to the overestimation of MBG in the East African patients. This may put the East African and other African patients at higher risk for hypoglycemia when the management is primarily based on achieving target HbA1c in the absence of the corresponding glucose data.