Atypical forms of diabetes mellitus in Africans and other non-European ethnic populations in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic literature review

Charlotte Bavuma, Diomira Sahabandu, Sanctus Musafiri, Ina Danquah, Ruth McQuillan, Sarah Wild

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Atypical presentations of diabetes mellitus (DM) have been reported in non-European ethnic populations under various names. It is unclear whether those names are used for the same or different clinical phenotypes. Unclear terminology may lead to inappropriate treatment and an underestimation of the burden caused by atypical diabetes phenotypes overlapping with classic types of diabetes. This review aimed to describe the terms used for atypical forms of diabetes and to investigate whether the terms are used for similar or different phenotypes.

Methods: PubMed and Scopus were searched for relevant publications in French or English available before 15 September 2015 using the terms: "Atypical diabetes", "Malnutrition Related Diabetes Mellitus (MRDM)", "Fibro-calculus pancreatic diabetes (FCPD)", Protein deficient Pancreatic Diabetes (PDPD)", "African diabetes", "Ketosis prone-type 2 diabetes", "tropical diabetes", "Flatbush diabetes", "J-type diabetes". Titles, abstracts screening and quality assessment were performed by two independent authors. Observational studies addressing atypical diabetes in humans aged 14 years and above were included. One author extracted data from selected articles.

Results: 22 articles among 350 identified articles were retained for data extraction. Two atypical diabetes phenotypes were identified, each of them with a variety of names but similar definitions. One phenotype occurred in very thin people less than 30 years of age, typically from poor socio-economic backgrounds and requires insulin for life. It differs from type 1 diabetes in the tolerance of high blood glucose without ketosis in the absence of exogenous insulin. The second phenotype resembles type1 diabetes as it presents with ketosis at onset but responds well, as type2 diabetes, to oral hypoglycemic drugs after initial stabilization with insulin. It occurs in individuals who are usually over 30 years of age, with normal or overweight and absence of auto antibodies mainly found in type 1 diabetes.

Conclusion: The scarce existing literature used various terms for similar diabetes phenotypes. Agreement on nomenclature for the various forms of diabetes using the above reported characteristics are needed in populations where atypical forms of diabetes exist as well as better characterization of phenotypes and genotypes to inform evidence based treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number020401
JournalJournal of Global Health
Issue number2
Early online date21 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


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