Science

Roundup: COVID’s Link to Type 1 Diabetes in Children; Study Eyes Ex-Smokers & Healthy Lifestyles; CDC Warns of Rare, Polio-Like Condition in Kids

Researchers Indicate High Risk of Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosis in Children Following COVID Infection

Children who were infected with COVID-19 show a substantially higher risk of developing type 1 diabetes, compared to children who had been infected with non-COVID respiratory viruses during the same period, according to a new study that reviewed electronic health records of more than 1 million patients aged 18 and younger. 

In the study, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, researchers at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine report that children and adolescents who contracted COVID-19 were more prone to developing type 1 diabetes in the six months following their COVID diagnosis.  They found a 72 percent increase in new diagnoses of diabetes in the COVID-19 patients. However, they emphasize that there is not clear indication that COVID-19 causes type 1 diabetes.

Study states limitations that include “potential biases owing to the observational and retrospective design of the electronic health record analysis, including the possibility of misclassification of diabetes as type 1 vs type 2, and the possibility that additional unidentified factors accounted for the association.”

Nonetheless, the researchers say the increased risk of new-onset type 1 diabetes “adds an important consideration for risk-benefit discussions for prevention and treatment of COVID-19 infection in pediatric populations.”

Previous studies have indicated that respiratory infections are associated with onset of type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is less common than type 2, or adult-onset diabetes. About 5 to 10 percent of people with diabetes have type 1, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, no one knows how to prevent type 1 diabetes, but it can be treated successfully.

Type 1 diabetes, which can be diagnosed at any age, is more common in children or young adults. It is thought to be caused by an autoimmune reaction (the body attacks itself by mistake), the CDC says. “This reaction destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin, called beta cells,” states the CDC. “This process can go on for months or years before any symptoms appear.”

“Families with high risk of type 1 diabetes in their children should be especially alert for symptoms of diabetes following COVID, and pediatricians should be alert for an influx of new cases of type 1 diabetes, especially since the Omicron variant of COVID spreads so rapidly among children,” said Pamela Davis, the Arline H. and Curtis F. Garvin Research Professor at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, a study corresponding author. “We may see a substantial increase in this disease in the coming months to years. Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong challenge for those who have it, and increased incidence represents substantial numbers of children afflicted.”


NIH Study: Former Smokers Who Engage in Healthy Lifestyles Can Reduce Risk of Death from All Causes

The benefits of quitting smoking for overall health cannot be overstated. A new study from researchers at the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, examines how former smokers who stick to a healthy lifestyle have a lower risk of dying from all causes, compared to those who don’t adopt healthy habits, such as healthy diets, regular exercise and weight management.

The reduced risk of dying is associated with lower risks of cancer and heart and lung diseases.

“Lifestyle interventions have not been robustly studied in former smokers, and these new findings could have important implications for the 52 million former smokers in the United States,” according to a statement from the NIH.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle — defined primarily as being physically active and having a healthy diet—was associated with a 27 percent reduction in the risk of death over the 19-year follow-up period, compared with not maintaining a healthy lifestyle, the NIH said.

The findings, which was published inJAMA Network Open, were derived from an analysis of nearly 160,000 former smokers who participated in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study.

“I was surprised to see the robust associations [with lifestyle],” said Maki Inoue-Choi, Ph.D., of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at NCI, lead author of the paper. “Former smokers who adhered to evidence-based recommendations for body weight, diet, physical activity, and alcohol intake had a lower risk of mortality than former smokers who didn’t adhere to these recommendations.”

Quitting smoking has well-established health benefits. However, former smokers still face higher risks of disease and premature death than those who have never smoked.

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S. and worldwide, the study states. Tobacco use causes about 480,000 deaths in the U.S. and more than 8 million deaths worldwide each year.


CDC Reports Increasing Cases of Rare, Polio-Like Condition in Children Known as AFM

A condition known as AFM (acute flaccid myelitis), which can rarely cause a polio-like paralysis in children has re-emerged in the United States – after virtually disappearing during most of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an alert issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC reports that pediatric hospitalizations in patients with severe respiratory illness who also tested positive for rhinovirus (RV) and/or enterovirus (EV) have been increasing across the nation this summer. RVs and EVs. “Upon further typing, some specimens have been positive for enterovirus D68 (EV-D68),” the CDC states. “EV-D68 has been associated with acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a rare but serious neurologic complication involving limb weakness.”

The CDC also emphasizes that while rates of AFM are increasing, the condition is still an extremely rare.

 Common symptoms among hospitalized children with EV-D68 include cough, shortness of breath, and wheezing. Fever is reported in about half of known cases.

AFM is an uncommon but serious neurologic condition. AFM symptoms include sudden onset of arm or leg weakness, loss of muscle tone, and loss of reflexes are the most common symptoms. Seek medical care right away if you or your child develops any of these symptoms, the CDC urges. More than 90 percent of AFM cases occur in young children.

The CDC previously saw increases in cases of AFM, 2015, 2016 and 2018.

In the U.S., RVs circulate year-round, with typical peaks in the spring and fall. The typical EV season is late summer and early fall; similarly, EV-D68 is thought to peak in late summer and early fall.

The CDC provides more information at these links: Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) and Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM).

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