Children who were infected with COVID-19 show a substantially higher risk of developing type 1 diabetes (T1D), according to a new study that analyzed electronic health records of more than 1 million patients ages 18 and younger.
In a study published today in the journal JAMA Network Open, researchers at the Case Western Reserve Univesity School of Medicine report that children and adolescents who contracted COVID-19 were more prone to developing T1D in the six months following their COVID diagnosis.
The findings showed a 72% increase in new diagnoses of T1D in COVID-19 patients 18 years old and younger — although the research emphasized that it is unclear whether COVID-19 triggers new onset of T1D.
About 187,000 children and adolescents younger than 20 live with T1D nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Type 1 diabetes is considered an autoimmune disease,” said Pamela Davis, Distinguished University Professor and The Arline H. and Curtis F. Garvin Research Professor at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, a study corresponding author. “It occurs mostly because the body’s immune defenses attack the cells that produce insulin, thereby stopping insulin production and causing the disease. COVID has been suggested to increase autoimmune responses, and our present finding reinforces that suggestion.”
The team analyzed the de-identified electronic health records of nearly 1.1 million patients age 18 years and younger in the United States and 13 other countries diagnosed with the SARS-CoV-2 infection between March 2020 and December 2021 and also those diagnosed with a non-COVID-related respiratory infection during that same period.
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