New cases of diabetes linked to COVID-19, and doctors ‘working like crazy’ to understand why


Preliminary studies show a possible link emerging between COVID-19 infections and new cases of diabetes in some patients.

Doctors have known for some time that people with diabetes are more at risk of serious illness of the coronavirus, but now scientists are working to determine if the virus may also lead some patients to develop new cases of diabetes. Research in the medical journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, and other studies raise concerns that the relationship could go both ways.

“Researchers are working like crazy to see if COVID attacks the beta cells in the pancreas, which produce insulin,” pediatrician Dr Dyan Hes told CBSN on Tuesday. “Some studies say so, but other studies have been repeated saying that she is not attracted to the beta cell. We still cannot understand why.”

Almost a year after the start of the pandemic, the effects “long COVID” such as long-lasting respiratory complications and mild cognitive impairment have been documented in many patients, as have others neurological symptomsblood clots blows, and heart and kidney damage. An analysis published in November 2020 found that of 3,700 patients hospitalized in eight studies, up to 14.4% had recently been diagnosed with diabetes.

“As a pediatrician, we’ve certainly followed cases of children who have had COVID or weren’t even aware they had COVID, but presented with type 1 diabetes,” Hes said.

Type 1 diabetes, she explained, is an autoimmune disease “where your body stops making insulin.” Type 2 is “when your body is not responding to the insulin you have”.

Doctors in Wuhan, China reported a link between COVID-19 and high blood sugar in April 2020.

He noted that there could be a link with the treatments some patients receive. “When you get treatment in the hospital for very sick patients, they get prednisone, which also raises blood sugar. So, does this also help?

Italian scientists also investigated whether these high blood sugar levels could lead to diabetes, recognizing a previously understood link between long-term viral infections and the disorder. The study, published last May, acknowledged that more research needed to be done before reaching a conclusion.

He said it was “not surprising” that a viral infection like COVID-19 could trigger type I diabetes, but the medical histories of these patients need to be investigated. “We have to follow the patients and see if they really had a family history of autoimmune or type I diabetes, or was it just COVID? Was that the only risk factor?”

Leading diabetes specialists in the UK and Australia are establishing a global registry of coronavirus-linked diabetes cases. In an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers said it was “plausible” that the effects of COVID-19 on the body’s ability to metabolize glucose could either complicate existing insulin levels or create new problems, leading to the onset of diabetes.

Francesco Rubino, professor of diabetes surgery at King’s College London, told the Washington Post that the registry already had more than 150 names and had collected responses from more than 350 institutions around the world. Rubino and other researchers have suggested that the global study could “uncover new disease mechanisms.”

Dr Hes, who noted the studies were preliminary, acknowledged the apparent link but said more research is needed to understand it.

“It’s too early to tell,” she said. “We need huge numbers to predict this.”

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