Covid-19 infection linked to more type 1 diabetes in kids and teens

The jury is still out on the relationship between the coronavirus and diabetes, though two new studies have certainly found an interesting link between them.
Photo: Jens Dresling/Ritzau Scanpix
Photo: Jens Dresling/Ritzau Scanpix
By Dong Lyu, bloomberg

Covid-19 in children and teens appeared to raise the risk of developing diabetes in two studies that didn’t settle the debate about whether the coronavirus can trigger the chronic condition.

Scientists from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health used national health registries to examine new diagnoses of type 1 diabetes over two years after the start of the pandemic. They found that youngsters who had tested positive for the coronavirus were about 60% more likely to develop type 1 diabetes.

The researchers looked at the risk within 30 days after a Covid-19 infection confirmed by PCR test. Another study from Scotland presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes conference that also included young adults found a heightened risk within a month after the viral illness – but after that, the scientists said, they found no association.

The researchers in both studies stressed that their findings don’t mean there is necessarily a cause and effect relation between the coronavirus and diabetes. They highlighted other possible culprits, including delays seeking care during the pandemic, the spread of other viruses and lifestyle changes related to lockdowns.

“Though there are a number of credible reasons why Covid-19 might lead to development of type 1 diabetes, this remains in no way proven,” said Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, an associate professor at the University of Oxford’s Nuffield department of primary care health sciences.

The number of people living with type 1 diabetes, in which the pancreas fails to produce the hormone insulin, may swell to as many as 17.4 million by 2040 from 8.4 million last year, according to a report published in The Lancet medical journal earlier this week.

Genetics as well as exposure to some pathogens – not just SARS-Cov-2 but a broad family known as enteroviruses – are believed to cause the condition, which has no cure and is most often diagnosed in young people. The more common form of the disease, known as type 2, tends to develop later in life as sedentary lifestyles and weight gain disrupt how the body regulates sugar.

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