The peak of the coronavirus pandemic coincided with a significant rise in Type 1 Diabetes cases among children, the NHS has found. Dr Karen Logan from Imperial NHS said several trusts reported an increase in Type 1 Diabetes diagnoses among children who had either shown symptoms of COVID-19 or had been in contact with someone carrying the virus. Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Dr Logan said: “During the peak of the pandemic we became aware of an unusually-high number of children presenting with new-onset Type 1 Diabetes to our service.
“We then worked with our colleagues throughout northwest London to collate data on new cases and we found a high number of cases in two of the hospitals in northwest London compared to previous years.
“When we investigated further, some of these children had active COVID-19 or had evidence of previously having been exposed to the virus.
“This raised the possibility of a link between COVID-19 and new-onset diabetes in children.”
Asked about the effective cases of new-onset Type 1 Diabetes recorded, Dr Logan conceded the number was limited but still represented a two-time increase compared to past years.
The coronavirus peak coincided with a surge of Type 1 Diabetes diagnoses in children
Dr Logan said the number of Type 1 Diabetes “doubled” at the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak
She continued: “Over that period, we looked from the start of the lockdown over a 10-week period until the first week of June, there were 30 children across the whole of northwest London.
“That’s five inpatients units and four NHS trusts. We’re talking about small numbers but that’s approximately double what we would normally see and in two of the units, 10 cases were reported each compared to maybe two to three over previous five-year periods.”
Dr Logan added the connection between the coronavirus and Type 1 Diabetes could be found in the viral nature of both diseases, with children susceptible to developing seasonal viruses expected to be more likely to develop either disease.
The physician added: “We know there is a combination of genetic risk and environmental factors that contribute to developing Type 1 Diabetes.
Coronavirus could be linked to Type 1 diabetes but further research is needed
“What we do know is that Type 1 Diabetes in children tends to have a seasonal pattern and you have a larger number of children presenting over the winter months.
“This points towards a likely impact of viral triggers. We think that occurs in children already susceptible to developing Type 1 Diabetes.
“We suspect COVID-19 may be behaving in a similar manner and triggering some of these children to develop diabetes.
“But our study did not look at the mechanism of how this might act and we certainly need further research to think about why this might be happening if we establish a definitive link.”
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Of the 30 children found to have developed new-onset Type 1 Diabetes, five also tested positive to COVID-19.
The Imperial NHS study also found that 70 percent of the children had also presented with Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a complication that leads to a dangerous build up of ketones.
Ketones are a type of chemical produced in the liver when fats are broken down. The research found 50 percent of the children who developed DKA experienced a much higher rate of “severe” cases.
Dr Logan said: “It appears that children are at low risk of developing serious cases of COVID-19.
“However, we do need to consider potential health complications following exposure to the virus in children.”