The need for unpleasant jabs may be minimised
It may be possible to replace twice a day jabs to control type 2 diabetes with a shot given just once a week, research suggests.
Scientists found a new formulation of the drug exenatide gave better control of blood sugar levels than the current twice-daily regimen.
The University of Toronto finding, published in The Lancet, could have a big impact on diabetes management.
But experts said research was needed to confirm the findings.
Over 30 weeks 259 patients were either given a shot of a long-acting form of exenatide once a week, or had the traditional twice-a-day jabs.
The impact of the treatments was assessed by measuring levels of a molecule called haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) in the patient's blood.
HbA1c is formed when sugar in the form of glucose sticks to haemoglobin - the molecule which carries oxygen around the body.
The less effective the body's control of sugar metabolism, the more HbA1c will be present in the blood.
Patients who were given the once-a-week jab registered a bigger average drop in HbA1c levels than those who had the twice daily jabs. A higher proportion of them also hit the target level for HbA1c during the study.
The once-a-week jab was also linked to fewer side effects.
Exenatide works by increasing secretion of insulin - the hormone which breaks down sugar - following a meal.
It also suppresses release of another hormone glucagon, which helps stop the liver from overproducing sugar when it is unneeded.
The authors conclude: "Exenatide once weekly resulted in significantly greater improvements in glycaemic control than exenatide given twice a day, with no increased risk of hypoglycaemia and similar reductions in bodyweight."
Hypoglycaemia is a condition caused by blood sugar levels being too low. It produces a range of symptoms, including palpitations, shaking and sweatiness.
Dr Iain Frame, of the charity Diabetes UK, said: "There is not much detail provided in the report of this preliminary study but the results appear to be promising.
"The research will need to be extended and the results confirmed before we will see any change in current practice."
According to Diabetes UK, more than 2.3m in the UK have type 2 diabetes, with many cases thought to be undiagnosed.
Details of the study were presented to a European Association for the Study of Diabetes conference in Rome.