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COVID-19 may spark diabetes in healthy individuals
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COVID-19 may spark diabetes in healthy individuals

Well-respected academics from around the world speculate that COVID-19 not just a risk for diabetic patients, but is also capable of triggering diabetes in healthy people.

COVID-19 first erupted in Wuhan, China late last year. Since then scientists are still discovering the damaging effects of COVID-19 on population across the world. For a few months now, experts have proven that adults suffering from diabetes are easily susceptible to the deadly virus, especially if they have weak glucose control. 

Recently a more critical analysis performed by an international group of diabetic experts suggests that COVID-19 not just a risk for diabetic population, but can also induce diabetes in healthy individuals. A healthy individual may be diagnosed with diabetes due to severe COVID-19 illness. 

“Diabetes is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases, and we are now realizing the consequences of the inevitable clash between two pandemics,” says Francesco Rubino, professor of metabolic surgery at King’s College London.

Diabetes Type I and II:

It is well known that there are two types of diabetes. A rather peculiar Type I also known as an autoimmune disease, is caused by the body’s own immune system attacking the cells of the pancreatic islets which produce insulin. 

The more common type, Type II is caused when the islets cells are overworked in producing large amounts of insulin since the liver does not satisfy the insulin request. This situation ends up with islet cells being exhausted.

For several decades now, viral infections have been linked with the onset of diabetes in several people. For example, Type I diabetes is known to present itself in a seasonal fashion during flu season. Sometimes the viral infection might trigger the pancreatic cells or insulin-producing factories leading to chronic autoimmune disease. 

In addition, The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young (TEDDY) has reported an increased risk of autoimmune diabetes in people after respiratory infections caught during the winter season.

The role COVID-19 plays in triggering diabetes:

Recently, a young man in China previously of good health was diagnosed with severe diabetes, known as ketoacidosis after contracting COVID-19. Previous subsidiaries of coronavirus, like the SARS outbreak, also reported documented cases of acute onset diabetes along with the virus. The diabetes mostly disappeared after 3 years but prevailed in 10 percent of the patients. 

The family of coronavirus be it SARS or COVID-19 have similar ways of infecting host cells. By now it is known that the surface spike proteins of the virus attach to the ACE2 receptors which are usually found abundantly in the lung, kidney, and islets cells in the pancreas. 

It is hypothesized that once the virus enters the islets, the COVID-19 virus disrupts the normal cell function causing abnormalities in the pathway secreting the insulin. Another possibility is that the virus may cause acute inflammation and kill the islet cells. 

So to answer the question, does COVID-19 cause diabetes? The answer is still not convincing, whether COVID-19 can trigger diabetes. Several diabetic experts are developing a registry to record all COVID-19 related diabetic cases. This register will help the experts in gathering enough data required to unravel the mystery, and find a treatment to stop the link between COVID-19 and diabetes. 

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