Coming down with COVID-19 does not increase a person’s risk of developing type 1 diabetes, reports a new study of Danish children. Earlier accounts had suggested that factors associated with COVID might somehow trigger type 1 diabetes in humans, but that doesn’t appear to be the case, according to this preliminary research on the medRxiv preprint server.
The researchers, who were from the Staten Serums Institut in Copenhagen, first identified residents of Denmark by using that country’s civil registration system. They then collected statistics from several Danish health registers containing information on persons under the age of 18 who had had at least one positive COVID test between March 1, 2020, and August 25, 2022. They also made use of the Danish infection surveillance system, a long-standing national initiative with a range of functions, such as detecting disease outbreaks, identifying groups at special risk, exploring preventable measures, estimating trends, and detecting changes in bacteria and in viruses. “Denmark,” the authors wrote, “had one of the highest test rates per capita in the world during the pandemic.”
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The researchers did follow-up analyses of those who tested positive for COVID. These analyses took place between 30 days after a COVID test and the end of the study — or when the individual turned 18, left Denmark, died, or went missing. They also excluded subjects who already been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes or diabetic ketoacidosis, which is a serious acute complication of diabetes. Other factors considered were vaccination status, sex, the presence of other diseases, and whether the subjects’ parents had type 1 diabetes.
No link found between COVID-19 and later risk of type 1 diabetes in those under 18
The total number of children under 18 surveyed in the study was 1,115,716. Among these, the researchers found 613 who were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Among the children who had tested positive for COVID, the researchers counted 144 type 1 diabetes diagnoses. According to these findings, the study authors wrote, “We observed no significant difference in the hazard of being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in test-positive children compared to children with only negative test results.” The numbers were similar when they took into account other factors (vaccination status, sex, other diseases, family history of diabetes). The authors also did what they called a “secondary analysis” in which they looked at the association between COVID-related hospitalization and later type 1 diabetes. “In this extended cohort,” they wrote, “we observed a total of 936 cases with Type 1 diabetes during 2,817,858 person-years, but we observed no Type 1 diabetes cases 30 days or more following a first COVID-19 related hospitalization (939 person-years).”
To sum up, the authors remarked, “Our data do not support an association between SARS-CoV-2 infection and subsequent risk of Type 1 diabetes among persons aged below 18 years, or that Type 1 diabetes should be a special focus after a SARS-CoV-2 infection in children.” “This is important,” they added, because finding an association between COVID and Type 1 diabetes, would “add to already existing worries regarding potential serious adverse long-term consequences of COVID-19 infection.”
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