People with diabetes are at higher risk for complications from COVID-19. Now, the CDC reports that the virus puts children at greater risk for coming down with diabetes (MMWR, Jan. 7, 2022). Rates of the metabolic disorder had already been rising slowly among people younger than 20 (MMWR, Feb. 14, 2020).
How Do We Know Youngsters Are Coming Down with Diabetes?
The researchers used two large insurance databases to compare the health of youngsters under 18 who had contracted COVID to those who had avoided the infection. In one of the databases, health care providers diagnosed more than 80,000 kids with COVID-19 between March 2020 and February 2021. The other database included nearly 440,000 youngsters diagnosed between March 2020 and June 2021.
Scientists compared rates of newly diagnosed diabetes within each dataset. Kids were matched for all variables except the diabetes diagnosis. In both datasets, children recovering from infection were significantly more likely to develop diabetes. In the database from IQVIA, the rate of diabetes was 316 per 100,000 person-years among kids diagnosed with COVID-19. By comparison, the rate for children who did not have COVID-19 was 118 per 100,000 person-years.
Other respiratory infections did not increase the likelihood of children coming down with diabetes. As the authors conclude, this increased risk underscores the importance of measures to prevent COVID-19 infections among young people.
What We Still Don’t Know:
Scientists were not able to determine whether type 1 or type 2 diabetes accounted for most of the cases. They also don’t know if the metabolic disorder is temporary or permanent. The authors note that the SARS-CoV-2 virus might attack pancreatic cells directly. On the other hand, cytokine storm or steroid treatment due to the infection might result in altered metabolism.