With some Covid patients having developed symptoms of diabetes after infection, scientists are now asking if Covid-19 could trigger diabetes even as early findings in recent studies suggest that the coronavirus could be prompting the pancreas to self-destruct.
One theory scientists forwarded was that the body could be confusing pancreas cells for the coronavirus and are trying to destroy them. This would disrupt insulin supply and cause diabetes, the scientists thought. But research suggests something else could be going on: the virus might be altering the pancreas, prompting it to destroy itself.
NEW YORK — According to researchers from King’s College London and Weill Cornell Medicine school in New York City, their analyses have shown indications that the coronavirus could be harming vital cells in the pancreas, leaving people with diabetes.
Although the relationship between Covid-19 and diabetes is poorly understood and scientists don’t yet have definitive answers, scientists disclosed that as the coronavirus pandemic progresses, a growing number of reports suggest that people who caught Covid-19 were noticing diabetes symptoms for the first time.
“Clearly there’s a link, there’s some sort of mechanism that makes the diseases fuel one another,” King’s College London metabolic surgery department chair Francesco Rubino noted. “The question is whether new-onset diabetes could be caused by this virus,” Rubino added.
“A hallmark of diabetes seen after Covid-19, though, is the extremely high levels of blood sugar people produce. These, in turn, need high doses of insulin to counteract,” Weill Cornell Medicine associate professor Shiubing Chen said.
“This suggests there may be some acute damage of the pancreas,” Chen said as his team found that after infection, the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas started acting strangely.
“They made much less insulin and instead started making glucagon—the chemical which has the opposite effect. The cells also started making trypsin, a digestive enzyme, and chemokines, a type of substance that tells the immune system cells are sick and should be destroyed. Whether this effect is severe enough to cause diabetes to develop where before there was none is something we don’t know yet,” she said. (TRC/The MiNT)