COVID-19 virus may cause healthy people to develop diabetes

As if the threat of permanent lung damage weren't enough, a new initiative has found evidence that the novel coronavirus behind COVID-19 may cause yet another unexpected health complication: the onset of diabetes. The disease may be developed by patients who are otherwise healthy, the report states, and it may also cause 'severe complications' for anyone who is already suffering from the condition.

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, but it may have wider health implications beyond the lungs. Some people who contract the virus report loss of smell, for example; it has also been implicated in heart and kidney issues, among other things. The latest research comes from King's College London, where scientists report that 'emerging evidence' hints at the potential for COVID-19 to trigger diabetes in patients, as well.

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.

It is possible that the virus behind COVID-19 may cause 'multiple and complex dysfunctions of glucose metabolism,' according to researchers, though the complete picture of how the SARS-Cov-2 virus and diabetes go together is not available. A large number of people who have died from COVID-19 also had diabetes, making it a serious risk factor for severe outcomes.

Likewise, there's early evidence that COVID-19 may cause previously healthy patients to develop diabetes as a consequence of the viral presence. Many questions remain, however, such as whether having contracted the virus puts one at risk of the future development of diabetes and whether diabetes that manifests during the infection will later be resolved.

CoviDiab Registry co-lead investigator and diabetes expert Professor Paul Zimmet explained:

We don't yet know the magnitude of the new onset diabetes in COVID-19 and if it will persist or resolve after the infection; and if so, whether or not or COVID-19 increases risk of future diabetes. By establishing this Global Registry, we are calling on the international medical community to rapidly share relevant clinical observations that can help answer these questions.