Scientists believe Covid-19 could cause diabetes in patients who did not previously have the disease, with researchers from around the world creating a database of patients who have developed the condition after contracting the coronavirus to track the results.
Professor of metabolic surgery at King’s College London, Francesco Rubino, has been observing a possible pattern between the disease caused by the virus and the blood sugar condition and is calling for a comprehensive investigation in the relationship. Other doctors have also reported an increase in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes diagnoses in patients who have had Covid.
Prof Rubino said that researchers examining the possible relationship are “starting to think the link is probably true”. He told The Guardian: “Over the last few months, we’ve seen more cases of patients that had either developed diabetes during the Covid-19 experience, or shortly after that. We are now starting to think the link is probably true – there is an ability of the virus to cause a malfunctioning of sugar metabolism.”
Led by King’s College London and Monash University, researchers and clinicians set up a global registry of new cases of diabetes in patients with Covid-19, named the CoviDiab Registry Project, last June.
Additionally, a recent study in the Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews found that 20.6 per cent of patients examined with mild to moderate Covid-19 had newly diagnosed diabetes on admission.
Research has previously discovered that ACE-2 – the protein to which the virus binds – is located in the organs involved in glucose metabolism including the pancreas, small intestine, liver and kidney, as well as the lungs. This has led scientists to hypothesise that the coronavirus may then cause dysfunctions of glucose metabolism, resulting in the onset of diabetes in some cases.
Speaking to The Independent following the establishment of the global registry, Prof Rubino described the diseases as “two pandemics”, saying: “Diabetes is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases and we are now realising the consequences of the inevitable clash between two pandemics.”
Existing evidence has already suggested that the coronavirus can cause more severe complications in patients with pre-existing diabetes: approximately a quarter of people who have died with Covid-19 have also been reported to have had the blood sugar condition.
Some 3.9 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with diabetes, according to figures from 2019, but doctors believe that almost one million more people live with undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes. The total number is expected to rise to 5.5 million by 2030.