Children who have had Covid-19 may be at higher risk of developing type 1 diabetes than those who have not, a new study suggests.
The study, which looked at health records from more than a million children aged 18 and under, found a 72% increase in new diagnoses of the condition among coronavirus patients.
But the researchers stress that it’s not clear why type 1 diabetes is becoming more common post-Covid, and experts say more research is needed.
Pamela Davis, Distinguished University Professor at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine — a corresponding author on the study — said, “Type 1 diabetes is considered an autoimmune disease.
“It mainly occurs because the body’s immune defenses attack the cells that produce insulin, stopping insulin production and causing the disease.
“Covid has been suggested to increase autoimmune responses and our current finding supports that suggestion.”
Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, Associate Professor at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford, said: “The team used a strong study design to examine this association, comparing people with Sars-CoV-2 to a matched group other respiratory viruses in the same period.
“However, there is still some uncertainty as to whether Covid-19 causes type 1 diabetes or if something else links the two.
“Covid testing was not widespread among young people, particularly in the early days of the pandemic, nor is type 1 diabetes regularly tested, making it difficult to determine if one could be causing the other.
He added: “More studies like the one presented here need to be done to see if the same results are found with different methods and in different groups of people.”
Gareth Nye, program director in medical sciences and lecturer in physiology at the University of Chester, said: “There are many factors to appreciate in this result and this study does not attempt to prove mechanistic links between the two, which are simply observations are, and we should accept the results after careful consideration.
“We’re seeing, for example, undiagnosed type 1 diabetes coming to light because of the extra infection, or simply that they’re more likely to be monitored more closely after infection. ”
He added: “It’s certainly worth reminding the public to be on the lookout for four T-symptoms of type 1 diabetes to enable early diagnosis and prompt treatment: needing to go to the bathroom more, thirstier.” being thinner and more tired undoubtedly saves lives.”
Researchers analyzed the medical records of nearly 1.1 million patients in America and 13 other countries diagnosed with Covid between March 2020 and December 2021, as well as patients diagnosed with non-Covid respiratory infections.
The patients were further divided into two groups – those up to nine years of age and those aged 10 to 18 years.
The study found that of more than 571,000 patients under the age of 18, 123 patients (0.043%) had received a new diagnosis of type 1 diabetes within six months of Covid infection, compared with 72 patients (0.025%) who subsequently received a new diagnosis of non-Covid respiratory infection, a 72% increase in new diagnoses.
The researchers found that the risk of a type 1 diabetes diagnosis at one, three and six months after infection was significantly higher in those infected with Covid than in those with non-Covid respiratory infections.
Similar results have been reported in patients in the infant to nine year old and 10 to 18 year old age groups.
Prof Davis said: “Families with a high risk of type 1 diabetes in their children should be particularly vigilant for symptoms of post-Covid diabetes, and pediatricians should be alert to an influx of new cases of type 1 diabetes, particularly since the Omicron -Variant of Covid is spreading so fast among kids.
“We could see a significant increase in this disease in the coming months to years.
“Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong challenge for those who have it, and increased incidence means it affects a significant number of children.”
The results are published in the journal Jama Network Open.
dr Faye Riley, Research Communications Manager at Diabetes UK, said: “Research around the world has found a higher than expected number of new onset type 1 diabetes in people with Covid-19, but there are still question marks about how they are linked, and if other factors play a role.
“Although these findings provide evidence of a possible link between Covid-19 and type 1 diabetes, it is still unclear whether Covid-19 could directly increase your risk of developing type 1 diabetes.”