JUN 14, 2021 12:08 PM PDT

COVID-19 May Cause Diabetes

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Reporting in Cell Metabolism, an international team of researchers has suggested that COVID-19 has caused diabetes in some patients. While diabetics are thought to be at risk for more severe SARS-CoV-2 infections, this research has indicated that in severe cases, the virus may also cause the metabolic disease. A few studies have reported that about 15 percent of people that are hospitalized with COVID-19 are also newly diagnosed with diabetes.

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (gray) heavily infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (red), isolated from a patient sample. Image captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. / Credit: NIAID

In this study, the scientists found that SARS-CoV-2 is able to infect pancreatic beta cells directly. These are the only cells in the body that are known to produce insulin, which regulates the level of blood sugar in the blood. Type 1 diabetics lack beta cells. In type 2 diabetes, the system stops working in some way; beta cells stop producing the hormone insulin, for example, or the body may become resistant to its effects. In either type of diabetes, the loss of insulin can lead to dangerous fluctuations in blood sugar levels.

SARS-CoV-2 can use a receptor called ACE2 on the surface of respiratory cells to infect them. Beta cells don't have many of these receptors, however. The researchers examined post-mortem tissue samples from seven COVID-19 patients and revealed the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in the patients' pancreatic beta cells, so the virus clearly found a way into those cells. There were also high levels of a protein called neuropilin-1 (NRP1) in the beta cells; the researchers suggested that NRP1 may be another way for the virus to infect them.

Additional work using beta cells growing in culture suggested that infected beta cells generate less insulin and show signs of imminent death. When neuropilin-1 activity was chemically blocked, the virus wasn't as infectious in this cell type. The researchers want to know whether this approach might help patients with severe COVID-19. More work will also be needed to determine how the virus reaches the pancreas.

“Current research cannot say for sure whether sugar metabolism normalizes again in all COVID-19 patients after an infection, or whether and how often permanent diabetes may develop,” said Dr. Matthias Matter of the University of Basel and the University Hospital Basel. Patients that survive the infection will have to be monitored.

Matter added that there is evidence that so-called “long COVID” patients show signs of diabetes for several weeks to months afterwards their infection, and these people may benefit greatly from therapeutics that prevent lasting damage.

Sources: University of Basel, Cell Metabolism

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JAN 27, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Air purifiers may increase the spread of viral transmission, not hinder it
JAN 27, 2021
Air purifiers may increase the spread of viral transmission, not hinder it
A recent study published in Physics of Fluids, from AIP Publishing, sheds new light on the pros and cons of air pur ...
MAR 09, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Leprosy Drug Repurposed for Potential COVID19 Treatment
MAR 09, 2021
Leprosy Drug Repurposed for Potential COVID19 Treatment
New research published in Nature study shows that a drug for treating leprosy was repurposed to treat COVID19. The study ...
APR 22, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Gum Disease Makes COVID Patients More Likely to Die
APR 22, 2021
Gum Disease Makes COVID Patients More Likely to Die
Gum disease is associated with an increased risk of COVID-related ICU admission and death, says a study by McGill Univer ...
APR 20, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Warning: public restroom ahead, high levels of aerosol particles
APR 20, 2021
Warning: public restroom ahead, high levels of aerosol particles
New research on the aerosolization of pathogens provides recommendations for public restroom use. According to the study ...
APR 27, 2021
Technology
Does Increased Ventilation Indoors Help Prevent the Spread of COVID-19? The Answer is Complicated.
APR 27, 2021
Does Increased Ventilation Indoors Help Prevent the Spread of COVID-19? The Answer is Complicated.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, researchers have sought new ways to curb the spread of the virus. As colder weather a ...
JUN 07, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
COVID Test Results in a Second?
JUN 07, 2021
COVID Test Results in a Second?
Scientists have developed a handheld diagnostic device, capable of detecting the presence of the SARS-CoV-2’s spik ...
Loading Comments...