Most Kids With Type 1 Diabetes and COVID-19 in US Fared Well

Miriam E. Tucker

April 30, 2021

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The majority of children with type 1 diabetes who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 were cared for at home and did well, according to the first report of outcomes of pediatric patients with type 1 diabetes and COVID-19 from the United States.

Most children who were hospitalized had diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and high A1c levels, the new report from the T1D Exchange Quality Improvement Collaborative indicates. Fewer than 2% required respiratory support, and no deaths were recorded.

The greatest risk for adverse COVID-19 outcomes was among children with A1c levels >9%. In addition, children of certain ethnic minority groups and those with public health insurance were more likely to be hospitalized.

The study, conducted by G. Todd Alonso, MD, of the University of Colorado, Barbara Davis Center, Aurora, Colorado, and colleagues, was published online April 14 in the Journal of Diabetes..

"As early reports identified diabetes as a risk factor for increased morbidity and mortality with COVID-19, the findings from this surveillance study should provide measured reassurance for families of children with type 1 diabetes as well as pediatric endocrinologists and their care teams," say Alonso and colleagues.

Disproportionate Rate of Hospitalization, DKA Among Black Patients

Initiated in April 2020, the T1D Exchange Quality Improvement Collaborative comprises 56 diabetes centers, of which 52 submitted a total of 266 cases involving patients younger than 19 years who had type 1 diabetes and who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection. Those with new-onset type 1 diabetes were excluded from this analysis and were reported separately. The data were collected between April 9, 2020, and January 15, 2021.

Of the 266 patients, 23% (61) were hospitalized, and 205 were not. There were no differences by age, gender, or diabetes duration.

However, those hospitalized were more likely to be Black (34%, vs 13% among White patients; P < .001) and to have public health insurance (64% vs 41%; P < .001). They also had higher A1c levels than patients who were not hospitalized (11% vs 8.2%; P < .001), and fewer used insulin pumps (26% vs 54%; P < .001) and continuous glucose monitors (39% vs 75%; P < .001).

Those hospitalized were also more likely to have hyperglycemia (48% vs 28%; P = .007), nausea (33% vs 6%; P < .001), and vomiting (49% vs 3%; P < .001). Rates of dry cough, excess fatigue, and body aches/headaches did not differ between those hospitalized and those who remained at home.

The most common adverse outcome was DKA, which occurred in 72% (44) of those hospitalized.

The most recent A1c level was >9% in 82% of those hospitalized, vs 31% of those who weren't (P < .001) and in 38 of the 44 (86%) who had DKA.

"Our data reveal a disproportionate rate of hospitalization and DKA among racial and ethnic minority groups, children who were publicly insured, and those with higher A1c. It is essential to find pathways for the most vulnerable patients to have adequate, equitable access to medical care via in person and telehealth services, to obtain and successfully use diabetes technology, and to optimize sick day management," say Alonso and colleagues.

One child, a 15-year-old White boy, underwent intubation and was placed on a ventilator. His most recent A1c was 8.9%. Another child, a 13-year-old boy whose most recent A1c level was 11.1%, developed multisystem inflammatory syndrome of childhood.

The registry remains open.

The T1D Exchange QI Collaborative is funded by the Helmsley Charitable Trust. The T1D Exchange received partial financial support for this study from Abbott Diabetes, Dexcom, Medtronic, Insulet Corporation, JDRF, Eli Lilly, and Tandem Diabetes Care. None of the sponsors were involved in initiating, designing, or preparing the manuscript for this study.

J Diabetes. Published online April 14, 2021. Full text

Miriam E. Tucker is a freelance journalist based in the Washington, DC, area. She is a regular contributor to Medscape. Other work of hers has appeared in the Washington Post, NPR's Shots blog, and Diabetes Forecast magazine. She can be found on Twitter @MiriamETucker.

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