In a significant find, a new study has said that the novel coronavirus behind Covid-19 may actually trigger onset of diabetes in healthy people, apart from causing severe complications of pre-existing diabetes.
According to the researchers from King's College London, given the short period of human contact with new coronavirus, the exact mechanism by which the virus influences glucose metabolism is still unclear.
"Diabetes is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases and we are now realising the consequences of the inevitable clash between two pandemics," said study researcher Francesco Rubino, Professor at King's College London.
"We don't know whether the acute manifestation of diabetes in these patients represent classic type 1, type 2 or possibly a new form of diabetes," Rubino warned.
An international research project called 'CoviDiab Registry' has announced the formation of a global registry that will track Covid-19 cases in which the patient goes on to develop diabetes, according to a letter from 17 diabetes experts recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The registry aims to understand the extent and the characteristics of the manifestations of diabetes in patients with Covid-19, and the best strategies for the treatment and monitoring of affected patients, during and after the pandemic.
Clinical observations so far show a bi-directional relationship between Covid-19 and diabetes. On the one hand, diabetes is associated with increased risk of Covid-19 severity and mortality.
"Between 20 and 30 per cent of patients who died with Covid-19 have been reported to have diabetes," the study showed.
On the other hand, new-onset diabetes and atypical metabolic complications of pre-existing diabetes, including life-threatening ones, have been observed in people with Covid-19.
It is still unclear how SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, impacts diabetes.
Previous research has shown that ACE-2, the protein that binds to SARS-Cov-2 allowing the virus to enter human cells, is not only located in the lungs but also in organs and tissues involved in glucose metabolisms such as the pancreas, the small intestine, the fat tissue, the liver and the kidney.
Researchers hypothesise that by entering these tissues, the virus may cause multiple and complex dysfunctions of glucose metabolism.
It has also been known for many years that virus infections can precipitate type 1 diabetes.
"The registry focuses on routinely collected clinical data that will help us examine insulin secretory capacity, insulin resistance and autoimmune antibody status to understand how Covid-19 related diabetes develops," said stud researcher Stephanie Amiel.