Covid-19: UAE doctors warn about link between diabetes, virus infection

Dubai - Studies have reportedly confirmed that coronavirus can target and weaken the body's insulin-producing cells

By Nandini Sircar

Published: Sat 12 Jun 2021, 6:37 PM

Last updated: Sat 12 Jun 2021, 6:45 PM

Doctors in the UAE are warning that there is emerging evidence pointing towards a relationship between diabetes and acute Covid-19 infection.

Two new NIH-supported studies reportedly confirm that SARS-CoV-2 can target and weaken the body’s insulin-producing cells.

The latest findings build on earlier studies done to discover more about the connection between Covid-19 and diabetes.

Dr Anil Kumar, consultant endocrinologist and diabetologist, Prime Hospital, says, “There is plenty of evidence to suggest that coronavirus might cause diabetes in some people or worsen pre-existing diabetes in others. I have seen a recent increase in referrals with new onset of diabetes mellitus in Covid-19 infected patients.”

He adds, “Cases of new diabetes diagnoses in coronavirus patients can be due to multiple reasons. One possible reason could be due to insulin resistance (insulin ineffectiveness) by an increase in inflammation inside the body caused by coronavirus. Another potential explanation could involve the expression of ACE-2 in the pancreas. This is the protein on the surface of cells that the coronavirus uses to enter and infect them. When coronavirus locks to ACE-2, the cells in the pancreas might not be able to do their normal releasing of insulin and processing glucose. It could accelerate progression towards a fresh onset of diabetes or bring to light already existing type 2 diabetes mellitus.”

Though a lot of information about coronavirus and its course of action have been studied and presented through scientific journals – there are many unknown facts as well.

Medics aver the latest is a study that indicates that even people without a history of diabetes could be affected.

Dr Rajesh Kumar Gupta, specialist internal medicine, Burjeel Specialty Hospital, Sharjah, said, “I have also noticed hyperglycemia in patients with severe Covid-19 and the development of new-onset diabetes after recovery in almost half of my patients, especially pre-diabetics. Severe Covid-19 infection can trigger hyperglycemia, which leads to the development of new-onset diabetes in infected patients and worsening of sugar control.”

Initial studies focused on lung and cardiovascular manifestations, other organs such as kidney, pancreas, intestine and olfactory epithelia dysfunction were also affected in some patients.

Dr Sarla Kumari, specialist physician and diabetologist, FCPS, MRCP, UK, Diabetes DIP UK, Canadian Specialist Hospital, opines, “Post Covid-19, especially those who have had severe Covid-19, it can lead to diabetes, lung fibrosis and myocardial damage. We have even noticed many neurological complications on follow up of post-Covid patients with memory defects as well as blood disorders, like low platelet count and drop in haemoglobin.”

Therefore, doctors advise frequent glucose monitoring during Covid-19 infections for both diabetic and non-diabetic patients, as well as early diagnosis and treatment to avoid complications.

Dr Vrishali Rohankar, Aster Clinic, Dubai said, “There is a bi-directional relationship between Covid-19 and diabetes mellitus. On one hand, diabetics are at higher risk of getting Covid-19 complications, while on the other hand, fresh onset diabetes and its severe complications such as diabetic ketoacidosis are observed in patients with the disease.”

"It is important to understand that the risk of getting infected with Covid is similar for those suffering from diabetes as well as non-diabetic people. However, diabetics are at higher risk of getting infected and suffering from complications after infection.”

“Good glycemic control is important for diabetics if they contract covid because uncontrolled diabetes is associated with worse outcomes. There are studies done all over the world that indicate that a few patients will develop diabetes after an acute Covid-19 infection. I have noticed this in my clinical practice as well," added Dr Rohankar.

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