In this week's roundup, the latest scientific research on the coronavirus suggests that diabetes may increase the risk of long COVID-19, COVID-19 while pregnant is linked to baby brain development issues and post-COVID-19 syndrome in children is rarer.
Diabetes may increase the risk of long COVID-19, new analyses of seven previous studies suggest.
Researchers reviewed studies that tracked people for at least four weeks after COVID-19 recovery to see which individuals developed persistent symptoms associated with long COVID-19 such as brain fog, skin conditions, depression, and shortness of breath. In three of the studies, people with diabetes were up to four times more likely to develop long COVID-19 compared to people without diabetes, according to a presentation on Sunday at the annual Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association. The researchers said diabetes appears to be "a potent risk factor" for long COVID-19 but their findings are preliminary because the studies used different methods, definitions of long COVID-19, and follow-up times, and some looked at hospitalized patients while others focused on people with milder cases of COVID-19.
"More high-quality studies across multiple populations and settings are needed to determine if diabetes is indeed a risk factor" for long COVID-19, the researchers said. "In the meantime, careful monitoring of people with diabetes ... may be advised" after COVID-19.
Babies born to mothers who had COVID-19 while pregnant may be at higher than average risk for problems with brain development involved in learning, focusing, remembering, and developing social skills, researchers have found.
They studied 7,772 infants delivered in Massachusetts between March and September 2020, tracking the babies until age 12 months. During that time, 14.4% of the babies born to the 222 women with a positive coronavirus test during pregnancy were diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder, compared to 8.7% of babies whose mothers avoided the virus while pregnant. After accounting for other neurodevelopmental risk factors, including preterm delivery, SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy was linked with an 86% higher risk of a neurodevelopmental disorder diagnosis in offspring, the researchers reported on Thursday in JAMA Network Open. The risk was more than doubled when the infection occurred in the third trimester.
The researchers point out that their study was brief and cannot rule out the possibility that additional neurodevelopmental effects will become apparent as the children grow up. On the other hand, they note, larger and more rigorous studies are needed to rule out other potential causes and prove that the coronavirus is to blame.
The rare but life-threatening inflammatory syndrome seen in some children after a coronavirus infection has become even rarer with the omicron variant causing most infections and more kids vaccinated, according to a new study.
Researchers looked at data from Denmark on more than half a million children and adolescents infected after omicron became dominant, about half of whom experienced breakthrough infections after vaccination. Overall, only one vaccinated child and 11 unvaccinated children developed Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), which causes inflammation in the heart, lungs, kidneys and brain after a mild or asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection. That translates to rates of 34.9 MIS-C cases per million unvaccinated children with COVID-19 and 3.7 cases per million vaccinated young COVID-19 patients, the researchers said on Wednesday in JAMA Pediatrics. By comparison, rates of MIS-C cases when delta was predominant were 290.7 per million unvaccinated infected kids and 101.5 per million among the vaccinated who had COVID-19, they said.
The fact that MIS-C risk was significantly lower in vaccinated children suggests the vaccine is helping to keep the immune system from causing the deadly inflammatory reaction that is an MIS-C hallmark, the researchers said.