Pediatric diabetes on the rise, linked to COVID-19, CDC report finds

Those ages 18 and younger are 30% more likely to develop diabetes after COVID-19, according to study

SAN ANTONIO – While symptoms of COVID-19 for children under 18 years have reportedly been less severe, a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this month warns there could be serious long-term effects.

The report signals children with COVID-19 were at least 30% at a higher risk of developing Type 1 diabetes one month after recovering from the virus.

“The protein that (COVID-19) uses to infect the lungs is a protein that is present in the beta cells, (which) are the cells that make insulin,” said Alberto Chávez-Velázquez, an endocrinologist with University Health and UT Health San Antonio. “So, one of the hypotheses is that the virus (uses) this protein to enter the cells, causing inflammation in the cells. It may affect the function, and it is not entirely clear whether this is permanent (or) temporary.”

The report is based on data collected between March 2020 and February 2021 from two health databases, including IQVIA and HealthVerity.

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Chávez-Velázquez notes the study is a limited analysis.

“The database it contained about records of about 2.5 million children, so it’s a sizable sample size,” Chávez-Velázquez said. “Frequently, when they contract COVID, the glucose controls is much, much worse, and in a lot of cases, they remain with diabetes. The glycemic control in many, many cases also worsens, so this is consistent with the trend that we are seeing here.”

The endocrinologist said inflammation in the body and organs could be dangerous for any person with diabetes.

“The body becomes (resistant to) insulin, so the pancreatic beta cells have to increase the insulin secretion to meet that increased demand or increased resistance.”

A demand he warns a person at risk of developing diabetes would not be able to produce.

“That is going to translate into a worsening of their glucose levels,” Chávez-Velázquez said.

Although information including underlying conditions, weight and environment aren’t included in the report, Chávez-Velázquez said it could help shed light on preventative measures and early detection of prediabetes and diabetes.

“The vaccination will have a big impact, not only in limiting the rate of infection but also in potentially decreasing bad outcomes in patients at high risk,” Chávez-Velázquez said. “The earlier prediabetes (is identified), the sooner the intervention can be started.”

Symptoms for diabetes include dehydration, increased thirst, excessive urination, severe fatigue, blurry vision, among others.

KSAT Q&A: Local doctor provides insight into studies regarding risk of diabetes in children after COVID infection

Dr. Jane Lynch, a pediatric endocrinologist for UT Health San Antonio, joins Steve and Myra to talk about two studies that examined the risk of pediatric diabetes after a COVID infection.

About the Authors:

Alicia Barrera is a KSAT 12 News reporter and anchor. She is also a co-host of the streaming show KSAT News Now. Alicia is a first-generation Mexican-American, fluent in both Spanish and English with a bachelor's degree from Our Lady of the Lake University. She enjoys reading books, traveling solo across Mexico and spending time with family.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.