In addition to pneumonia, blood clots and other serious health complications caused by covid-19, several studies have found another worrying link. Some people may develop diabetes after an acute infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Two studies supported by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) proved this in June last year. Both agreed that the coronavirus could target and damage insulin-producing cells. Recent studies have also revealed this link in children.
Diabetes 1. typu occurs when beta cells in the pancreas do not excrete enough insulinso that the body can optimally metabolize food after a meal. As a result of this insulin deficiency, blood glucose levels rise, which is a hallmark of diabetes.
Previous laboratory studies have suggested that SARS-CoV-2 virus can infect human beta cells. They have also shown that it can replicate in insulin-producing cells and spread to other cells. Two independent NIH-funded teams participated in the work – one led by Peter Jackson of Stanford University School of Medicine and the other led by Shuibing Chen of Weill Cornell Medicine.
Both studies confirmed pancreatic beta cell infection in samples taken from people who died of covid-19. Another study by Jackson’s team suggested that the coronavirus may preferentially infect insulin-producing beta cells. Signs of coronavirus have also been reported in several other types of pancreatic cells.
Both teams provided evidence that SARS-CoV-2 infection leads to reduced insulin production and release from pancreatic islet tissue. Jackson’s team also found that the infection leads directly to the death of some of these important beta cells.
The virus “reprograms” the cells
In addition to the loss of beta cells, the infection also appears to change the fate of surviving cells. Chen’s team performed an analysis that looked closely at changes in the pancreatic cells after infection. The results showed that beta cells go through a process of transdifferentiation, in which they “reprogram”.
In this process, the cells begin to produce less insulin and more glucagon – a hormone that promotes the breakdown of glycogen in the liver into glucose. They also produce higher amounts of a digestive enzyme called trypsin 1. Importantly, the process of transdifferentiation can be reversed by a chemical called trans-ISRIB.
From a biological point of view, this makes sense. Beta cells and other types of pancreatic cells contain the ACE2 receptor protein, the TMPRSS2 enzyme protein and neuropilin 1 (NRP1), on which the ability of SARS-CoV-2 virus to enter and infect human cells depends.
Risk for children as well
Daily The Huffington Post brought the information on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, which suggests that people under the age of 18 who have recovered from covid-19 are also at increased risk of developing type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
This finding „emphasizes the importance of prevention strategies against covid-19, including vaccination, for all eligible persons in this age group, as a complement to the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, “ scientists report.
CDC experts analyzed two large US health insurance databases and compared data from children who contracted covid-19 between March 1, 2020 and early mid-2021 with data from children who did not become infected with the virus.
Both datasets revealed significant increase in diabetes diagnoses in minorswho became infected, but to varying degrees. One group showed that the risk of diabetes was 166% higher, while the other group increased the risk by 31%.