New studies find COVID-19 can cause diabetes

“The key is if you are diagnosed with COVID-19 and have any classic signs or symptoms of type 1 diabetes, get tested for diabetes,” said Ashton.

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN)- For those infected with the covid-19 virus, doctors have some troubling news.

New studies are finding that the virus may cause diabetes on top of pneumonia and other health problems.

While a majority of people recover from covid without long-term problems, doctors have noticed that some patients go on to develop diabetes.

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New research has found that the virus may infect and destroy certain cells that are crucial for keeping diabetes at bay. Now, scientists are rushing to figure out how to stop this from happening in patients with covid-19.

Diabetes contributes to 10-15% of deaths in the United States. Nearly 34.2 million people had diabetes in 2017.

According to the CDC, around 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year. Out of those with diabetes, around 1.6 million have type 1 diabetes, which is an autoimmune disease that attacks pancreatic beta cells to reduce insulin production.

“There is a difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News’ chief medical correspondent, and a board-certified OBGYN, who was not involved in the studies. “[In] type 1 diabetes, the body does not make enough insulin. In type 2, there is enough insulin but it is not working properly.”

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The hallmark of diabetes, hyperglycemia, is a high level of glucose. High levels of sugars or glucose in the blood are caused by a decrease in insulin production or a resistance to insulin which happens after insulin causes cells to take up sugar in the blood.

“Earlier lab studies had suggested that [the COVID-19 virus] can infect human beta cells,” said Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, said in a recent blog post. “They also showed that the dangerous virus can replicate in these insulin-producing beta cells to make more copies of itself and spread to other cells.”

The correlation of the covid-19 virus and diabetes was confirmed by new research done by Stanford University School of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medicine.

“The virus actually destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin,” said Ashton. “[This] decreases insulin levels and then leads directly to high sugar and type 1 diabetes.”

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Due to having certain receptors that are known to bind to covid-19, experts say these particular cells may be more vulnerable to being attacked by the virus. Once attacked, the cells transform into different types of cells with a lower expression of insulin. The experts say this shows that SARS-CoV-2 could change the cell’s fate.

However, another study showed that there may be drugs to reverse it, we’ll know more as more research is done.

“More study is needed to understand how SARS-CoV-2 reaches the pancreas and what role the immune system might play in the resulting damage,” said Collins.

“The key is if you are diagnosed with COVID-19 and have any classic signs or symptoms of type 1 diabetes, get tested for diabetes,” said Ashton.

Anyone who has recovered from COVID-19 should be on the lookout for symptoms of diabetes, Ashton added. “We’re talking about extreme thirst and increase in urination, unintentional, significant weight loss, or fatigue, just to name a few,” she said.

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