Diabetes puts people at risk for complications and death from COVID-19. Now, evidence suggests that COVID-19 may trigger new cases of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
According to The Washington Post, 14% of people who developed severe cases of COVID-19 also developed diabetes. Many of the newly diagnosed had no previous history of the disorder and some returned to normal after recovery from the infection. However, others developed full-blown diabetes, adding to the growing list of potentially long-term complications of COVID-19.
According to SELF, COVID-19 may not trigger diabetes directly, although experts currently have no explanation for the link. Pediatrician Dr. Dyan Hes, from New York, says she is not surprised about the association. Hes says type 1 diabetes, the less common form, is caused when the immune system attacks its own insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Researchers have already been looking into the mechanisms on how viruses can cause type 1 diabetes, she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that while genetics plays a strong role in developing type 1 diabetes, environmental triggers, such as a virus, are thought to play a role. Experts are investigating whether SARS-CoV-2 can trigger new diabetes cases this way.
One theory is that the virus attacks the cells in the pancreas that make insulin by binding to their ACE2 receptors and altering their function. This would explain why COVID-19 causes type 2 diabetes as well, according to SELF.
“If scientists could figure out how or if viral infection can damage beta cells, or what role viruses play in the development of the disease, it would be a real turning point,” said Dr. Katie Colbert Coate, Ph.D., a diabetes researcher at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Dr. Hes said that there is ongoing research into the link between diabetes and COVID-19. Scientists are gathering data globally into a global registry called CoviDIAB to gain a better understanding of how COVID-19 causes diabetes and how best to treat these patients.
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