Millions of people could be at risk of diabetes if they catch virus

Type 2 diabetes can be a 'devastating diagnosis' says expert

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The research paper stated: “Mounting evidence shows association between COVID-19 and new diagnoses of diabetes.” Tens of thousands of people are infected by the contagious virus every week in the UK, official UK government data shows. To be specific, in the past seven days, there have been 36,605 positive Covid cases.

While a link has been identified between Covid and diabetes, the researchers had one stand-out query.

“It is unclear… if COVID-19 increases detection of pre-existing diabetes or if it can induce new-onset of the disease,” the authors noted.

Establishing a global online registry of COVID-19-related diabetes cases, the team analysed newly-diagnosed diabetes occurring within four weeks of catching Covid.

To exclude pre-existing signs of hyperglycaemia (high blood sugars), new-onset of diabetes was defined as:

  • No prior history of the disease
  • No prior history of glucose-lowering medications
  • Blood sugar (HbA1c) levels was less than 6.5 percent at presentation
  • Blood sugar levels above diabetes threshold (fasting glycaemia  of  126mg/dL, or more, or non-fasting glyceamia  of 200mg/dL, or more).

Data was collected between October and April 2022, from 61 hospitals in 25 countries, with 537 eligible cases of newly-diagnosed diabetes.

In 45 percent of patients, newly classified as diabetics, high blood sugars persisted beyond resolution of the Covid infection

Further follow-up data, beyond three months, was available for 28 such cases, which showed 23 patients continued to classify as diabetic while five went into remission.

Remission means blood sugar levels were not high enough to be classified as pre-diabetic or diabetic, without the need for medication.

The authors said: “This study shows clinical plausibility for a diabetogenic effect of COVID-19.”

Moreover, the researchers suggest their findings support screening for diabetes in people who contract Covid.

“Further investigation is warranted to confirm mechanisms of viral interference with glucose metabolism,” they added.

While more research is needed in this area, people who already have diabetes need to be aware that they are at higher risk of a severe infection from Covid.

The NHS cautions that the “outcomes” from catching Covid, as a diabetic, could be “potentially worse” than non-diabetics.

Diabetics who become infected with Covid are advised to check their blood sugar levels more frequently.

“Early morning is probably most useful if you are only taking oral medication,” the NHS advises.

Is diabetes preventable?

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirm: “You can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes with proven, achievable lifestyle changes.”

Examples include becoming more physically active every day and losing excess weight.

Adults are recommended to exercise for at least 150 minutes each week, which can include: swimming, jogging, dancing, and playing sports.

In order to lose weight, however, it’s crucial to burn off more calories than you consume in a day.

The preprint paper – yet to be peer reviewed – is published in Research Square.

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