There’s been growing concern on how COVID-19 could have significantly increased the risk of children developing type 1 diabetes.

Based on new research that analyzed electronic health records of over 1 million patients aged 18 and below, children infected with SARS-CoV-2 showed a higher risk for type 1 diabetes.

“Incidence of new-onset type 1 diabetes increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this increase has been associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the researchers wrote in the study published in JAMA Network Open.

However, the team admitted that data for type 1 and 2 diabetes incidence in pediatric COVID-19 patients were not separated, so it was not clear if SARS-CoV-2 infection indeed caused the increased risk in kids.

The cohort study simply assessed whether there had been an increase in new diagnoses of type 1 diabetes among pediatric patients in the six months after their COVID infection.

The findings showed a 72% increase in new diagnoses of type 1 diabetes in COVID-19 patients 18 years old and below within six months after infection.

“Type 1 diabetes is considered an autoimmune disease,” corresponding author Pamela Davis was quoted by SciTechDaily as saying. “It occurs mostly because the body’s immune defenses attack the cells that produce insulin, thereby stopping insulin production and causing the disease.”

The Arline H. and Curtis F. Garvin Research Professor at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine continued, “COVID has been suggested to increase autoimmune responses, and our present finding reinforces that suggestion.”

According to Davis, their study suggests that families with a high risk of type 1 diabetes in their children should be on the lookout for possible symptoms after battling a COVID infection.

Another corresponding author, Rong Xu, said further research is needed at this point to ascertain how to deal with the increased risk and how to treat COVID-associated type 1 diabetes in kids.

“We are also investigating possible changes in the development of type 2 diabetes in children following SARS-CoV-2 infection,” Xu added.

While type 1 diabetes is most common in children, type 2 diabetes is known as “adult-onset diabetes” since it develops over time and is present in older patients who have become resistant to the effects of insulin.