COVID-19 Virus diabetesToday’s children are being born into a world much different than what we once knew. The new reality of our world involves grappling with the effects of COVID-19. However, it seems that some children are experiencing greater effects than we could have imagined. As it was recently discovered, after a child is infected with COVID, he or she may have a heightened risk of developing Type 1 Diabetes. This adds another complicated layer to the pandemic that we thought we had mostly seen the end of. This article will detail the facts of the research while also providing insight from my AP Biology studies.

Over the past three years, we have become all too familiar with SARS-CoV-2, known as the virus that causes COVID-19. We have seen its effects in many different ways in our own lives and the lives of those around us. Now, as research improves, new discoveries have been made about COVID’s link to Diabetes in children. This article from NewScientist by Chen Ly highlights these studies. The article mentions that inside the pancreas are these structures called islets of Langerhans. These islets are groups of pancreatic cells that are responsible for producing insulin and glucagon, the two hormones that are crucial for the regulation of our blood sugar. The body can develop an autoimmune response to these islet beta cells and then fight against them with autoantibodies. If enough autoantibodies are created, they can trigger the onset of type 1 diabetes after killing too many islets in the pancreas. In a research study conducted by Annette-Gabriele Ziegler at The Technical University of Munich in Germany, it was concluded that children who had COVID antibodies were twice as likely to develop islet antibodies than those who have not been infected. This information provides insight on the relationship between COVID antibodies and diabetes. If children’s bodies can create these autoantibodies that kill the islets, the insulin production in young children can be weakened by COVID infection.

As stated in this article from the University of Minnesota, diagnoses of Type 1 Diabetes increased as a result of documented COVID infections. The incidence rate of T1D was 29.9 from January 2020 to December 2021. This was a jump up from the 19.5 incidence rate recorded in 2018 and 2019. This jump suggests that COVID infection is correlated to an observed increase in T1D. In an article by the CDC, it was reported that people under the age of 18 were more likely to receive a diabetes diagnosis after 30 days from COVID infection. This highlights the importance of COVID prevention strategies in order to additionally prevent other chronic diseases. In addition, this PubMed states that during the pandemic, we observed an increase in cases of hyperglycemia, diabetic ketoacidosis, and new diabetes. Th alludes to the possibility that COVID may trigger or unmask T1D.

Recently in our AP Biology class, we have been learning about the immune system and cell communication. This can be related to the research mentioned above in that we have covered the topic of blood sugar regulation and studied the pathway of insulin and glucagon throughout our bodies. Insulin regulates our blood sugar by helping to store the excess glucose in the liver when there is too much of it in the bloodstream. Glucagon does the inverse of this by taking the stored glucose from the liver and bringing it to the bloodstream when blood sugar levels are low. Both of these hormones seek to maintain homeostasis. In addition, we have focused on how our bodies react to viruses, and the different kinds of cellular responses that are necessary to fight infections. This is related to my research for this article because it dives deeper into the concepts of immune responses and blood sugar regulation. Getting to read about these topics in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic has further enhanced my understanding of them. 

I chose to write about this topic because of the impact that both COVID-19 and Diabetes has had on my family, which helps me to connect with these topics and heightens my curiosity. I welcome any comments regarding these topics and how they may have affected you or someone you know. What are your thoughts on these findings?

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