COVID News: Diabetes Risk in Kids, AZ Booster, Protective Nasal Spray and More


For much of the COVID-19 pandemic, children were viewed as significantly less vulnerable to the disease than adults, particularly older adults. That metric shifted somewhat in light of the more infectious Delta and Omicron variants, although children are still significantly less likely to catch the disease and have severe disease. However, they are also less likely to be vaccinated and treatments specifically for children haven’t been routinely evaluated. For a look at what’s going on with kids and COVID-19, and related stories, continue reading.

Kids Who Recovered from COVID-19 Have Increased Risk of Diabetes

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that children who recovered from COVID-19 are at increased risk of developing diabetes. The research evaluated data from more than 2.5 million patients under 19. The study found that kids diagnosed with COVID-19 were approximately 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes a month or more after infection. 

Non-COVID-19-related infections were not associated with an increased risk of diabetes. A potential link also exists in adults. Two studies published in June 2021 demonstrated that SARS-CoV-2 could infect adult pancreatic beta cells, decreasing their ability to produce insulin and essentially resulting in Type 1 diabetes. The CDC study included Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes in its analysis.

Sanjoy Dutta, Vice President of Research for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which focuses on Type 1 diabetes, emphasized that this study showed an association between COVID-19 and diabetes but doesn’t determine how the virus would or if it actually does increase the risk of diabetes in children.

“I would not necessarily go about raising the alarm bell right now that it is increasing Type 1 diabetes,” Dutta said. “There is no mechanism yet to suggest that it is doing it or how it is doing it.”

Risk Factors for Severe COVID-19 in Children

Severe COVID-19 in children is less common than in adults. A study of 3,000 children in 10 countries who tested positive for COVID-19 found that 3% went on to have severe disease within two weeks. The specific risk factors were older age, chronic conditions and experiencing symptoms longer. Out of 3,221 children, 17 years and younger in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Italy, New Zealand, Paraguay, Singapore, Spain, and the U.S., 107 (3.3%) had severe outcomes within two weeks and four (0.12%) died. They found that children sent home from the Emergency Department had a much lower risk. The study was conducted primarily prior to the rise of the Delta variant and well before the Omicron variant.

“Fortunately, the risk of developing severe disease in children with COVID-19 discharged from the emergency department is very low,” said Dr. Todd Florin, an associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University and co-lead author. “Our findings can provide reassurance to parents and clinicians for children well enough to be managed in the community, while also providing important insights on which children may be at particular risk for severe outcomes.”

Of the 3,221 children, 2007 were from the U.S., 1,694 were male, and 484 had a self-reported chronic illness. The median age was three years. The characteristics associated with the worst outcomes were being aged five to nine years, being age 10 to 17, having a self-reported chronic illness, previous pneumonia, symptoms beginning four to seven days before going to the emergency department, and country. They also found that asthma was not a risk factor for severe disease in children.

AstraZeneca Reports COVID-19 Vaccine 3rd Dose Effective Against Variants

AstraZeneca reported that its Vaxzevria vaccine it developed with the University of Oxford, when given as a third booster shot, increased immunity against variants, including Beta, Delta, Alpha and Gamma, and Omicron. The data showed the results in people who had received the original two doses of Vaxzevria or an mRNA vaccine by Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech. A separate study also demonstrated a third shot of the AstraZeneca-Oxford dose increased antibody levels after two shots of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine.

“Vaxzevria has protected hundreds of millions of people from COVID-19 around the world and these data show that it has an important role to play as a third dose booster, including when used after other vaccines,” said Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice President, BioPharmaceuticals R&D, AstraZeneca. “Given the ongoing urgency of the pandemic and Vaxzevria’s increased immune response to the Omicron variant, we will continue to progress regulatory submissions around the world for its use as a third dose booster.”

Molecular Partners and Novartis Expect Early Submission for Ensovibep

Only days after Molecular Partners and Novartis announced positive results from Part A of the EMPATHY Phase II trial of IV ensovibep for COVID-19, the companies say they expect to submit an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in February. The drug is a DARPin antiviral drug. Part A of the trial hit the primary endpoint of viral load reduction over eight days. It also showed clinically meaningful benefit in a composite endpoint of hospitalization and/or ER visits or death and time sustained to clinical recovery. A larger study to confirm this data might be finished by the second half of the year.

Finnish Researchers Develop Nasal Spray to Protect Against COVID-19

research group at the University of Helsinki invented a novel nasal spray that protects against COVID-19 “for hours.” The molecule in the spray inactivates the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, creating short-term protection against the virus. To date, in cell cultures and animal studies, TriSb92 protects against infection for “at least eight hours even in cases of high exposure risk,” going to work immediately. It has not yet been tested in humans and the study hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet.

“In animal models, nasally administered TriSb92 offered protection against infection in an exposure situation where all unprotected mice were infected,” stated Anna Makela, first author of the study. “Targeting this inhibitor effect of the TriSb92 molecule to a site of the coronavirus spike protein common to all variants of the virus makes it possible to effectively inhibit the ability of all known variants, omicron included, to infect people.”

They emphasize that it is not a replacement for vaccines but could potentially be a supplement to vaccines.

A Wearable Air Sampler to Detect Exposure to COVID-19

Researchers at Yale University developed a wearable, passive air sampler to determine if a person has been exposed to COVID-19. Called the Fresh Air Clip, it continuously monitors exposure to virus-containing aerosols. It is based on polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). Not yet commercialized, the developers believe it could be utilized as a semiquantitative screening tool for monitoring COVID-19 exposure in individuals and to identify high-risk areas for indoor exposure. In 62 volunteers who wore the Fresh Air Clip for five days, PCR detected SARS-CoV-2 RNA in five; four were worn by restaurant servers and one by a worker at a homeless shelter. The highest viral loads, defined as more than 100 RNA copies per clip, were identified in two clips worn by people working in restaurants.

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