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Experts criticize CDC report on COVID-19 and childhood diabetes risk

Experts criticize CDC report on COVID-19 and childhood diabetes risk

  • a CDC report found that children with SARS-CoV-2 infection up to 2.5 times more likely to get diabetes.
  • But experts had problems with how the analysis came about.
  • Still, some pediatricians say the findings are worth investigating further.

Many pediatricians and public health experts are criticizing a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggesting that COVID-19 may increase children’s risk of developing diabetes.

The report, published on Jan. 7, found that children with SARS-CoV-2 infection up to 2.5 times more likely to get diabetes.

Commenting on the report, several public health experts highlighted the study: limits: The analysis did not consider childhood obesity, other underlying conditions, medications, race or ethnicity, and pooled all types of diabetes.

Still, some pediatricians say the inconclusive findings are worth investigating further.

Children’s hospitals are seeing more children with new-onset diabetes after they have recently or currently had COVID-19, and some children with diabetes who have contracted the coronavirus are experiencing serious complications that require hospitalization.

In addition, other viral infections have been linked to the development of diabetes. But what that means for COVID-19 will have to be explored in the coming months and years.

“To me, the report highlights the need for prospective studies and high-quality, longitudinal research on the effects of COVID-19 on children and the development of diabetes,” says dr. Jenise Wong, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California at San Francisco.

Wong says this can’t be answered now, and it’s too early to say that children who tested positive for COVID-19 are at risk for diabetes.

dr. Sarah D. Corathers, an associate professor in the endocrinology division at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, says the CDC study is an observational report of health claim data, not a statement of causation.

According to Wong, the report did not take into account other health problems, medications that can raise blood sugar, race or ethnicity, obesity and other social health determinants that contribute to diabetes. These factors can affect children’s risk of contracting the coronavirus and diabetes.

Other viral diseases, through a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors, have been linked to new-onset type 1 diabetes.

“In general, it is still unclear whether viral infections cause diabetes in children, but they are thought to ‘trigger’ the process of type 1 diabetes in those who may already be susceptible,” Wong said.

Viral infections could potentially cause the health condition by damaging the cells that produce insulin.

Researchers will need to examine all factors — including environmental factors such as viral infections, genetics and the immune system — that may contribute to the development of diabetes.

In the meantime, Corathers advises parents to be aware of new diabetes symptoms in children — increased thirst and urination and unintended weight loss.

According to Corathers, children’s hospitals worldwide have recently seen more children with current or recent coronavirus infections with type 1 diabetes.

A recent report from Romania recorded a 16.9 percent increase in type 1 diabetes diagnoses from 2019 to 2020.

Wong says children’s hospitals are also seeing increased diagnoses of type 2 diabetes in children.

This is “likely related to behavioral change, increased weight gain and other stressors that have occurred during the pandemic,” Wong said, noting the report does not differentiate this from COVID-19.

Wong says many viral illnesses, especially those that cause fever, can lead to changes in blood sugar levels in individuals with diabetes.

If the infection interferes with the insulin needs of children with diabetes, they can develop diabetes ketoacidosis, which requires hospitalization.

According to Wong, this is a common side effect in children with type 1 diabetes who develop COVID-19.

However, the long-term effects of COVID-19 on children with diabetes are unclear.

“We advise our families to closely monitor blood sugar levels with any illness, and some may need to adjust their insulin dosage during this time,” Wong said.

The CDC released a report this week suggesting that children diagnosed with COVID-19 are up to 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes. Public health experts have criticized the report for failing to adjust for other potential contributing factors, such as obesity, other medical conditions, and race and ethnicity. While experts say the report’s findings are inconclusive and do not establish a causal relationship, many pediatricians say the link between COVID-19 and new diabetes in children is worth investigating further.