First detected in December of 2019 in Wuhan, Coronavirus has since become a global pandemic. While public health experts around the world are scrambling to understand, track, and contain a new virus, increasing amounts of information are being thrown at us every single day! The latest being, a Covid-19 infection can cause numerous serious and lingering health issues like lung damage, kidney damage, and ongoing heart issues. Lately, research has suggested it may also cause a sudden onset of insulin-dependent diabetes. Researchers have set up a registry to investigate the possible link and inform future treatment.
In a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine, an international group of 17 leading experts explain that Covid-19 may trigger the onset of diabetes in healthy people, and also cause severe complications in diabetic patients. They mention that though having diabetes can increase a person’s risk of severe COVID-19, there has been evidence that shows people developing diabetes for the first time as a result of the infection.
According to studies the protein ACE-2 that binds SARS-Cov-2 and allows the virus to enter human cells is not just located in the lungs but is also present in organs and tissues that are involved in glucose metabolisms such as the pancreas, the small intestine, the liver, and the kidney. The scientists believe that by entering these tissues, the virus may cause multiple and complex dysfunctions of glucose metabolism that could complicate the condition of pre-existing diabetes, pre-diabetes, or lead to new mechanisms of the disease altogether.
Francesco Rubino – Professor of Metabolic Surgery at King’s College London explained, “We don’t know whether the acute manifestation of diabetes in these patients represents classic type 1, type 2, or it may possibly be a new form of diabetes.” But, to add to the findings, a new study from the University of Florida after observing the pancreases of 36 deceased people without COVID, found ACE-2 (the protein that binds SARS-Cov-2) to be absent in their beta cells, putting a damper on the theory.
According to researchers, it will require assessing routinely collected clinical data to examine insulin secretory capacity, insulin resistance, and autoimmune antibody status to understand how Covid-19 related diabetes develops, its natural history, and the best management and treatment for it! Paul Zimmet, Professor of Diabetes at Monash University in Melbourne explains, “We don’t know the magnitude of new-onset diabetes in Covid-19 yet and if it will persist or resolve after the infection, and if so, whether or not Covid-19 increases risk of future diabetes.”
Until the experts have enough evidence and data to establish whether there is a definitive link between Covid-19 and diabetes it is necessary to keep active and eat healthily, or at best keep stable weights or to lose a few pounds to lessen the risks of diabetes now — and in the future!