Until now, we knew that people with diabetes were among the populations at risk from the Covid-19 epidemic. Nevertheless, a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that the new coronavirus could in certain cases cause the development of diabetes in healthy patients.
Diabetes after a viral infection
Viral infections have been shown previously to cause diabetes, particularly because the blood sugar balance is often upset. The case has been reported in patients with mumps or with enterovirus infection. Diabetes has also been diagnosed in patients infected with the 2002-2004 SARS epidemic, the researchers point out in the preamble to their article. For 10% of them, diabetes has taken a chronic form.
The risk is also present with the new coronavirus. Researchers are reporting only one case now, that of a young man infected with Covid-19 and who subsequently presented with diabetic ketoacidosis, a potentially fatal complication that usually occurs in people with type 1 diabetes. Symptoms of ketoacidosis include nausea, headache, confusion, shortness of breath, and loss of consciousness.
Coronaviruses, precursors of diabetes?
Like its predecessor SARS from 2002-2004, Covid-19 has a protein that allows it to attach to lung, kidney, and pancreatic cells. Researchers believe it is possible that these coronaviruses can cause diabetes by disrupting normal cell function when they attach to cells in the pancreas.
“There is no solid data yet to indicate that Covid-19 causes new diabetes or worsens existing diabetes. Some data suggests, however, that there could be a possible link, which is why scientists are seeking to explore this avenue further,” explains professor Riyaz Patel, cardiologist, to the If science scientific site.
More studies are therefore necessary to confirm this first observation. Many “Covid patients” say they still have sequelae of the disease two months or more after being infected. 7 months after the known start of the pandemic, doctors and researchers will finally be able to observe the possible side effects of the infection in those affected. The future will tell us if diabetes is officially part of it.
Hugues Louissaint is an entrepreneur and writer, living in the US for over a decade. He has launched successful products such the Marabou Coffee brand, which has been highly successful in Florida. He has also been a writer for more than 5 years focusing on science, technology, and health. He writes part-time for the Scientific Origin and provides valuable input on a wide range of subjects.