Emerging evidence suggests that COVID-19 may actually trigger the onset of diabetes in healthy people and also cause severe complications of pre-existing diabetes.
Clinical observations so far show a bi-directional relationship between COVID-19 and diabetes, according to a Science Daily report.
On the one hand, diabetes is associated with increased risk of COVID-19 severity and mortality.
Between 20 and 30 per cent of patients who died with COVID-19 were reported to have diabetes.
On the other hand, new onset diabetes and atypical metabolic complications of pre-existing diabetes, including life-threatening ones, have been observed in people with COVID-19.
It is still unclear how SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, impacts diabetes.
Previous research has shown that ACE-2, the protein that binds to SARS-Cov-2, allowing the virus to enter human cells, is not only located in the lungs but also in organs and tissues involved in glucose metabolism such as the pancreas, the small intestine, fat tissue, the liver and the kidney.
Researchers hypothesise that by entering these tissues, the virus may cause multiple and complex dysfunctions of glucose metabolism. It has also been known for many years that viral infections can precipitate type 1 diabetes.
Professor Paul Zimmet, from Monash University in Melbourne, said it was important for doctors to share observations related to the link between COVID-19 and diabetes.
“We don’t yet know the magnitude of the new onset diabetes in COVID-19 and if it will persist or resolve after the infection; and if so, whether or not COVID-19 increases risk of future diabetes,” Prof. Zimmet said.
Professor Francesco Rubino, from King’s College in London, said this was a very important part of the ongoing COVID-19 research.
“Diabetes is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases, and we are now realising the consequences of the inevitable clash between two pandemics,” Prof. Rubino said.
“Given the short period of human contact with this new coronavirus, the exact mechanism by which the virus influences glucose metabolism is still unclear and we don’t know whether the acute manifestation of diabetes in these patients represents classic type 1, type 2 or possibly a new form of diabetes.”
Do you already suffer from diabetes? Have you been extra cautious in the wake of the pandemic?
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