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COVID-19 might increase diabetes risk, Penn State study finds

People who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 may be 66% more likely to develop type 1 or type 2 diabetes, a study at Penn State College of Medicine says. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
People who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 may be 66% more likely to develop type 1 or type 2 diabetes, a study at Penn State College of Medicine says. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 13 (UPI) -- People who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 may be 66% more likely to develop Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, a study at Penn State College of Medicine says.

The Penn State research team discovered the SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 attaches itself to enzyme receptors on organs such as the kidneys, small intestine and pancreas and can affect insulin levels.

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"We can't definitively conclude that COVID-19 causes diabetes, and more research on whether there is a biological cause to explain this association is needed," said Paddy Ssentongo, an internal medicine resident physician at Penn State Health.

"But we know that other viruses like mumps virus, rotavirus and cytomegalovirus are associated with the development of diabetes, so it's not implausible that SARS-CoV-2, which has been shown to affect multiple systems in the human body, can also do the same."

Prior research shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has linked COVID-19 infection with a high risk of developing adverse health conditions such as heart disease. The latest study adds to the picture of long-term health effects stemming from the pandemic.

"To date, more than 660 million people have tested positive for COVID-19," said Dr. Djibril Ba, assistant professor of public health sciences at PSU. "It is important that survivors and their health care providers are aware of this trend so they can be on the lookout for development of diabetes."

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The Penn State study was based on cross-analyzing data from eight other studies on COVID-19. A statistical model was used to project the risk of being diagnosed with diabetes after being infected with SARS-CoV-2. In total, the data spanned 4 million COVID-19 patients, and 43 patients who were used as the control group and not diagnosed with COVID-19.

The full results of the study were published in Nature Scientific Reports. Ba and Ssentongo said more research must be done to examine the relationship between COVID-19 and diabetes in hopes of guiding prevention strategies.

"Given the extraordinary number of COVID-19 survivors globally, the modest increase in diabetes risk could correspond to a drastic rise in the number of people diagnosed with the disease worldwide," the report reads. "Therefore, active monitoring of glucose dysregulation after recovery from severe COVID-19 infection is warranted."

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