UAMS Studies Highlight Endocrine Disorders that Put Children at Higher Risk for COVID-19 Complications, Death

By David Robinson

One study found that children with poorly controlled Type 1 diabetes have a much higher risk of COVID-19-related complications and death compared to those with well-controlled diabetes.

The other study found that adrenal insufficiency increases the risk of COVID-19 complications and death compared to children with normal adrenal glands. Adrenal insufficiency is a disorder of the adrenal glands, located just above the kidneys, when they do not make enough of the hormone cortisol. The primary form of the disorder is called Addison’s disease.

UAMS’ Manish Raisingani, M.D., a pediatric endocrinologist who sees patients at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and lead researcher for both studies, presented his team’s preliminary findings at ENDO 2021, the Endocrine Society’s virtual annual meeting March 20.

“This study shows keeping diabetic children’s blood sugar under control is more important than ever during the pandemic,” said Raisingani, who is based at Arkansas Children’s Research Institute (ACRI). “The findings will help children with Type 1 diabetes and their families make better choices about the safety of attending school in person and engaging in other in-person activities during this pandemic.”

In the diabetes study, Raisingani’s team analyzed data on children under age 18, using an international database that collects real-time electronic medical records data. The researchers reviewed data on about 2,000 children with Type 1 diabetes and COVID-19, as well as more than 300,000 children with COVID-19 who did not have Type 1 diabetes.

For the adrenal insufficiency study, the researchers analyzed data from an international database on children up to age 18 who had COVID-19. The study included 846 children with adrenal insufficiency and more than 250,000 without adrenal disease. The mortality rate was much higher among children who had adrenal insufficiency, compared to children who did not have the condition.

“This study shows it is important to take extra precautions to prevent and treat COVID-19 infection in children with adrenal insufficiency,” Raisingani said.

The project was supported by the UAMS Translational Research Institute, which provides researchers access to the TriNetX database. The database includes a network of 170 health care organizations across 30 countries. The UAMS institute is funded by a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

The Endocrine Society is the world’s oldest and largest organization of scientists devoted to hormone research and physicians who care for people with hormone-related conditions. The Society has more than 18,000 members, including scientists, physicians, educators, nurses and students in 122 countries.