COVID-19 found to trigger new diabetes cases

Diabetes diagnosis. Stamp, stethoscope, syringe, blood test and pills on the clipboard with medical report. 3d illustration

Some people who have recovered from COVID-19 are developing diabetes, researchers have said.

Previous studies had already found evidence to suggest that diabetes is a risk factor for severe coronavirus cases.

But now, newly published research in the Diabetes,Obesity and Metabolism journal has shown that COVID-19 could be triggering diabetes in some people.

More than one in 10 people with coronavirus (14.4%) were newly diagnosed with diabetes after recovering from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to the analysis of 3,711 people across eight different studies.

New cases of diabetes could be the result of inflammation and insulin problems related to COVID-19, according to the research team.

In at least some of these cases, it could be that some of the people in the study already had diabetes and were unaware of it until they were admitted to hospital for COVID-19, according to the study.

But evidence also suggests that COVID-19 might be enough to worsen existing metabolic health issues into full-blown type 2 diabetes, according to Dr Jose Aleman, assistant professor of endocrinology at New York University (NYU)  Langone Health.

Dr Aleman said: “Stressful conditions lead to elevated levels of regulatory hormones that raise blood sugar to aid the body in fighting whatever insult it’s facing, such as illness or injury. For people with underlying conditions, that can be enough to kick them over the edge.”

These conditions include prediabetes, obesity, insulin resistance, or high blood pressure. That may explain how the virus is linked to new cases of type 2 diabetes, which happens when people become less responsive to insulin and have blood sugar control as a result.

However, COVID-19 has also been linked with new cases of type 1 diabetes which has baffled researchers.

Dr Aleman said the best theory is that COVID-19 can cause the immune system to overreact and destroy some of the body’s own cells while fighting the virus.

Researchers found that the coronavirus, or the body’s immune response to it, can disrupt beta cells in the pancreas, potentially triggering the onset of type 1 diabetes.

People with existing auto-immune disorders, or those who are older with immune system problems, may be particularly at risk of this.

Dr Aleman said: “I think this is going to be one of the long-haul complications of COVID. It’s hard to treat when you’re already sick and in the hospital, and this is a motivation to treat those conditions now.”

To read the study, click here.