LONDON — The coronavirus pandemic is inflicting a devastating toll on people of all backgrounds, but it’s been especially dangerous for patients with pre-existing health problems. A group of medical experts now says COVID-19 may actually create more cases of one particular condition — diabetes.
A letter, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, reveals that a new registry has been created to track diabetes patients diagnosed with COVID-19. The letter is signed by 17 medical experts who say evidence shows the coronavirus not only makes diabetes worse, but may cause people to develop the disorder.
Researchers with the CoviDiab Registry report having diabetes increases the risk of severe COVID-19 complications and death. Between 20 and 30 percent of all COVID-19 deaths were also found to have diabetes.
The study also finds the onset of new diabetes cases in COVID-19 patients. For those with the condition already, doctors are finding metabolic complications in people who later test positive for coronavirus. Some of those diabetic complications are even life-threatening.
“Diabetes is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases and we are now realizing the consequences of the inevitable clash between two pandemics,” says Francesco Rubino, a co-author from King’s College London, in a statement.
Link To Coronavirus
Diabetes, of course, affects how the body turns food into energy. People with the disorder don’t make enough insulin which leads to too much blood sugar in the bloodstream. That imbalance can eventually cause problems like heart and kidney disease.
Previous COVID-19 studies show that the virus enters cells through the ACE-2 gene. Although ACE-2 is found in the lungs, where the virus can cause pneumonia, the gene is made in the digestive system and found in the pancreas, small intestine, liver, and kidneys.
Researchers say virus infections are known to cause type 1 diabetes.
COVID-19, Diabetes Type 3?
Rubino, a professor of metabolic surbery, adds that because the COVID-19 is so new, scientists don’t know what effect it’s exactly having on a patient’s metabolism. He warns the coronavirus could cause diabetes-related dysfunctions that have never been seen before.
“We don’t know whether the acute manifestation of diabetes in these patients represent classic type 1, type 2 or possibly a new form of diabetes,” says Rubino.
“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 or COVID-19 increases risk of future diabetes,” adds Prof. Paul Zimmet from Monash University in Melbourne.
Researchers urge physicians around the world to share their COVID-19 data with the CoviDiab Registry. The project is hoping more information about COVID-infected diabetes patients will help doctors understand how the virus is attacking the human body.