Mounting clues suggest the coronavirus might trigger diabetes
Despite the continued rise in new daily cases in Brazil, India and Russia and the southern parts of the US, rising recovery rates and incrementally positive news about better treatments of Covid have been encouraging. Whilst our understanding about the virus and its treatment is improving, several researchers are beginning to look at long lasting effects of Covid on the human body even after the patient has recovered and tested Covid free. One such effect that researches currently speculate is that Covid might trigger diabetes in some patients. “Evidence from tissue studies and some people with COVID-19 shows that the virus damages insulin-producing cells.”
“…Diabetes is already known to be a key risk factor for developing severe COVID-19 and people with the condition are more likely to die. “Diabetes is dynamite if you get COVID-19,” says Paul Zimmet, who studies the metabolic disease at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.
Now Zimmet is among a growing number of researchers who think that diabetes doesn’t just make people more vulnerable to the coronavirus, but that the virus might also trigger diabetes in some. “Diabetes itself is a pandemic just like the COVID-19 pandemic. The two pandemics could be clashing,” he says.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune cells destroy Beta cells which are responsible for producing insulin without which blood sugar levels go up. Researchers based on evidence of blood sugar levels rising in Covid patients are hypothesising if Covid has the same effect of destroying Beta cells.
“…evidence from dozens more people with COVID-19 who have arrived in hospital with extremely high levels of blood sugar and ketones, which are produced from fatty deposits in the liver. When the body doesn’t make enough insulin to break down sugar, it uses ketones as an alternative source of fuel. “In science, sometimes you have to start off with very small evidence to chase a hypothesis,” says Zimmet.
Researchers cite other evidence, too. Various viruses, including the one that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), have been linked with autoimmune conditions such as type 1 diabetes. And many organs involved in controlling blood sugar are rich in a protein called ACE2, which SARS-CoV-2 uses to infect cells.”
However, further research is required to conclude:
“…Earlier this month, an international group of scientists, including Zimmet, established a global database to collect information on people with COVID-19 and high blood-sugar levels who do not have a history of diabetes or problems controlling their blood sugar.
…The study in pancreatic organoids shows how SARS-CoV-2 could be damaging the organ. Shuibing Chen, a stem-cell biologist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, and her colleagues showed that the virus can infect the organoid’s α- and β-cells, some of which then die. Whereas β-cells produce insulin to decrease blood-sugar levels, α-cells produce the hormone glucagon, which increases blood sugar. The virus can also induce the production of proteins known as chemokines and cytokines, which can trigger an immune response that might also kill the cells, according to the study8 published in Cell Stem Cell on 19 June.
Chen says the experiments suggest that the virus can disrupt the function of key cells involved in diabetes — either by directly killing them or by triggering an immune response that attacks them.”
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