Type 1 Diabetes and COVID-19
As cases of COVID-19 continue to spread across the United States and the globe, scientists are especially interested in how it affects specific populations, such as those with type 1 diabetes (T1D). T1D is considered an underlying health condition and already puts individuals at greater risk when it comes to illness and potential complications.
One positive sign is that preliminary data from a recent study shows that many patients with T1D who also test positive for COVID-19 or have COVID-19-like symptoms are able to effectively manage their recovery at home. Less than 25% of patients were serious enough to require hospital admission. In addition, there were only two reported fatalities, and those individuals had existing comorbidities.
According to the preliminary data, it appears as though patients who have higher A1c levels and poorer glycemic management tend to be more negatively impacted by the disease. In addition, higher body mass index may also be a risk factor. When it comes to age, about 65% of cases were in individuals aged 18 or younger (though many had COVID-19-like symptoms, not confirmed diagnoses), and the average age of all 64 participants was 20.9 years. This is not an issue that is only facing older adults.
According to the study, “Overall, 34.9% of patients were able to manage COVID-19 entirely at home, with 27.3% of the confirmed and 43.3% of the suspected cases able to do so. At the other extreme, 22.2% of patients overall were admitted to the intensive care unit; 30.3% of the confirmed versus 13.3% of suspected cases.” Other patients were seen at an urgent care or hospital but not admitted.
Of those who managed their recovery at home, many received support virtually through telemedicine where they able to consult with endocrinologists and infectious disease specialists. There were also many who did not need to seek care and had their symptoms improve.
Since the initial study was conducted, more patient data has been submitted, and there are now 220 patients as opposed to 64. This data is still being analyzed and reviewed, but at first glance, researchers have found that results continue to be similar to the original group. Researchers are looking at A1c levels, glycemic management, comorbidities, mortality, telemedicine access and use, and more to better understand how COVID-19 is impacting individuals with T1D. They are also digging deeper into risk factors. A new paper reflecting this latest data is in the works.
There are still a lot of unknowns when it comes to COVID-19, but researchers are striving to understand how it may affect more vulnerable populations such as those with type 1 diabetes. The Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) continues to follow these studies and trends to stay up-to-date on the latest information. In addition, the DRC provides critical funding for early career scientists to conduct their own novel, peer-reviewed studies around T1D, whether related to COVID-19 or any other facet of the disease. To learn more and support current projects, visit http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.