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Are People Infected With The Virus Prone To Diabetes?

Who would have thought that one day we’ll have to watch the sky from inside our buildings, or wash our hands repeatedly almost as if we had an OCD, or maintain a forceful distance from friends and family. 

Until the end of 2019, no one really cared about any of those things. But when the pandemic wreaked havoc and took millions of lives, people started listening to experts and following their advice. They understood that this virus was unlike anything humanity had faced before. 

Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash | Quite recently, studies published by the NIH have revealed a link between the pandemic-virus and diabetes

Speaking of unknowns, did you know that the pandemic-causing virus can also lead to diabetes? Nope, we ain’t kidding! According to two studies backed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the virus can cause severe damage to insulin-producing cells and can lead to diabetes. As if the constant fear of infection and eventual death wasn’t enough! 

Before jumping to conclusions, though, it would be best to keep in mind that there’s still research going on to confirm this. 

A quick look at the studies

The two NIH-supported studies whose pre-proof are available in the journal Cell Metabolism looked for a deeper link between the virus and diabetes. Unlike most research that depended on lab tests data, these two studies examined the bodies of patients who died due to the virus. 

During the autopsy, they found that most patients’ pancreatic beta cells were infected. They even hinted towards infection in insulin-producing cells.  

The studies further revealed that the virus could change clusters of cells known as islets in the pancreas. It could lower the production and release of insulin and, in rare cases, kill the beta cells. It could also reprogramme the beta cells into producing less insulin than required by the body. 


Mykenzie Johnson/Unsplash | Owing to the pancreatic damage found in deceased patients, researchers believe the virus leads to higher chances of contracting diabetes

What do experts have to say?

During an interview with Health, Amesh A. Adalja, an infectious disease expert, and MD, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, emphasized that the studies were conducted via autopsy. He said that since the researchers were only focused on finding out the impact of the virus on a particular cell, it can’t be compared with the regular way of diagnosing a type of diabetes.

He indicated that the studies didn’t provide information about which type of diabetes could be found in recovered patients and how the severity of the virus could infect more or fewer beta cells. It also didn’t address questions like how the virus was reaching the pancreas or whether the immune system was playing a role in damaging beta cells? 


Marisol Benitez/Unsplash | Experts say that further research is needed to establish the link between the virus and diabetes, but people should be cautious nonetheless and get vaccinated

Adalja stated that more research on this topic is the only way to get answers to those questions. He suggested that next time studies should be conducted on surviving patients to get a broader view of the situation. While concluding, he also took the initiative to praise the researchers of the current studies. Adalja said that the study could help many doctors and patients. He also requested people to take the virus seriously and get vaccinated.

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