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COVID-19 link to type 1 diabetes probed; breathalyzer screening shows promise

A small study in Britain suggests researchers should be on the look-out over whether COVID-19 increases the risk of type 1 diabetes.

Cases of type 1 diabetes among children may have risen during the peak of Britain's coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, scientists said on Monday in the Diabetes Care journal in a study based on 30 cases at two hospitals.

In comparison with a typical year, this represented an 80% increase, they said. "When we investigated further, some of these children had active coronavirus or had previously been exposed to the virus," study co-author Karen Logan of St. Mary's Hospital in London said.

In type 1 diabetes - once known as juvenile diabetes - insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed, preventing the body from producing enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.

The researchers said one explanation could be that the novel coronavirus might attack insulin-making cells in the pancreas. "More research is needed to establish whether there is a definitive link ... but in the meantime we hope clinicians will be mindful of this," Logan said.

Breath test screening for COVID-19 shows early promise

It may be possible someday to screen large populations for COVID-19 using breath tests, researchers said.

Their new breathalyzer device has sensors made of gold nanoparticles linked to specially selected molecules that can detect disease-specific chemical biomarkers from exhaled breath, they reported on Tuesday in the journal ACS Nano.

In a pilot study in Wuhan, China in March, a team of Chinese and Israeli researchers tested the device in 49 COVID-19 patients, 58 healthy controls and 33 people with non-COVID lung infections.

In this small study, the device showed 100% sensitivity for identifying patients with COVID-19 and for distinguishing them from patients with other lung infections but was less effective at correctly identifying those without COVID-19.

The researchers said their device is not intended to replace gold-standard diagnostic tests, but if its reliability can be proven in larger studies it might be useful "for rapid large population screening in a short period of time" in public places such as airports, shopping centers and train stations or in the community, for early detection of the disease in asymptomatic contagious people. -- Reuters