COVID-19 seems to bring new surprises at every turn. The devastation has hit all over the world, the effects already having ravaged and killed hundreds of thousands of people. And it never seems to let up with me challenges coming to light all the time. This is science in real-time as we learn about this virus on the fly. Researchers are now reporting a subset of patients developing diabetes in response to the infection.
A group of researchers came together in June to address the threat of emerging diabetes in some COVID-19 patients. The group published a letter in the New England Journal of Medicine to share their findings. This new information means even people who consider themselves in perfect health could fall into a high-risk group overnight.
This can happen because of the way SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, accesses the body. See, the virus uses a specific receptor, ACE2, to get in. This receptor exists across numerous types of human cells, and the virus has adapted to use it as an entry point. We have ACE2 receptors all throughout our airways and across our eyes, for example, which is the reason it’s so easy to catch COVID-19 through close contact.
We also have ACE2 receptors in our pancreas, intestines and kidneys, and that’s where serious metabolic problems can arise. COVID-19 can cause devastation anywhere ACE2 receptors are present. So when it attacks the pancreas and other metabolic organs, the ravages of disease and inflammation may go so far as to trigger the onset of type 1 diabetes. The virus might also worsen existing diabetes, increasing the risks of deadly complications.
People with diabetes aren’t at any higher risk of catching COVID-19, but, tragically, they are more likely to die if they do get it. According to the American Diabetes Association, people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes have higher chances of developing severe infections. Those with poorly managed blood sugar are particularly vulnerable. But when patients don’t even know they’ve fallen into this risk group, they may not understand what’s happening to them until it’s too late.
Take the case of Andre Guest, as reported by Kaiser Health News, who was a perfectly healthy 16-year-old until he contracted COVID-19. He took a sudden turn, having difficulty gripping objects and slurring his words, then finally collapsing. At the hospital, the teen’s blood sugar tested 10 times higher than normal. After 12 days in intensive care fighting onslaughts against his brain, lungs, kidneys and heart, the teenager died.
Those with diabetes should probably consider themselves at high risk and take extra precautions to remain safe. And those with prediabetes may want to make changes fast to reduce any risks as well. This is just one more reason we all need to do our part to stop the spread of this insidious disease. The CDC recommends continued social distancing, regular handwashing and wearing a face-covering whenever we're out in public. For every one of us, it could be a matter of life and death.
Copyright 2020, Wellness.com