LONDON 

A new study published in the UK suggests a possible link between COVID-19 and the development of type 1 diabetes in children.

According to an article by the Imperial College London (ICL) Tuesday, the study, published in Diabetes Care and led by clinicians at ICL NHS Trust and researchers from the college, showed 30 children in hospitals in north-west London “presented with new-onset type 1 diabetes during the peak of the pandemic.”

It is “double the number of cases typically seen in this period in previous years, with clusters of cases in two of these hospitals.”

“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,” Karen Logan from the ICL NHS Trust said.

“Our analysis shows that during the peak of the pandemic the number of new cases of type 1 diabetes in children was unusually high in two of the hospitals in north-west London compared to previous years, and when we investigated further, some of these children had active coronavirus or had previously been exposed to the virus,” she said.

“We believe this study is the first to show a potential link between COVID-19 and the development of type 1 diabetes in some children. Our study was limited to one UK region and more research is needed to establish whether there is a definitive link between the two, but in the meantime we hope clinicians will be mindful of this potential link.”

The team, which worked on the case, suggested that the coronavirus spike protein might be able to attack and destroy insulin-making cells in the pancreas, according to the article.

“Whilst the data doesn’t prove a direct link, the team believes that the fact that there was a significant rise in cases at the peak of the pandemic suggests that it is plausible that there is a link between some cases of new-onset diabetes in children and COVID-19,” it said.

“The team recommends a larger analysis to establish whether there is a definitive link between COVID-19 and new-onset type 1 diabetes, and if so whether COVID-19 has any impact on the severity of the disease.”

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