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New studies find COVID-19 could lead to diabetes

The results of two new NIH-funded studies show how the virus damages cells that help produce insulin.

VIRGINIA, USA — As researchers take a closer look at the long-term effects of COVID-19, two new studies funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) found some people may develop diabetes after a COVID-19 infection.

The studies found that the virus destroys cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, and that the decrease in insulin leads to high glucose.

Dr. Ananda Basu, a Professor of Medicine at the University of Virginia said the findings are early, but concerning.

“It’s like a double-whammy,” said Basu.

“We have to see whether that ends up creating diabetes in these people who did not have diabetes in the past. Covid can affect insulin-making cells in the pancreas and more worrisome is that it can not only infect and kill these cells, but in some cases, it can transform these cells into making other hormones that are detrimental for diabetes.”

It’s unknown how many COVID-19 patients develop diabetes or if it’s permanent or resolved.

Dr. Elizabeth Broderick, a Physician at the Children’s Clinic in Newport News said the two studies give us a closer look at some of the long-term health issues people may develop after getting COVID-19.

“This virus has really figured out a door to get into our cells,” said Broderick.

“It’s yet another consequence we don’t want to have happen, and because so many people have had Covid-19 in the U.S., we may see subsequent cases of diabetes that they otherwise never would’ve had.”

Basu said his team at UVA has formally requested funding from the NIH in order to conduct its own study. If the university gets the funding it needs from the NIH, researchers will take an even closer look at the possible link between COVID-19 and diabetes.

Some of the symptoms of diabetes include thirst, increased urination, unintended weight loss and fatigue. If you have any of these symptoms, you should get your blood sugar tested.