A new long-term health problem could result from the current Covid-19 pandemic. Researchers report having observed an increase in cases of hyperglycemia (too much sugar in the blood) in people who have been hospitalized for Covid-19. The disease-linked to Sars-CoV-2 could thus durably disrupt glucose metabolism.
In their study, published in the journal Nature Metabolism, researchers report that out of 551 patients hospitalized for Covid-19 in Italy, 46% of them suffered from hyperglycemia. Note that these people were not diabetics before, this metabolic feature would therefore have arisen during the infection.
While most of these patients returned to normal blood sugar levels, 35% of hyperglycemic patients remained so for at least six months after infection with the coronavirus.
Having hyperglycemia was also associated with more serious clinical signs, such as the increased need for oxygen and ventilation, longer hospital stays, or increased need for intensive care.
According to the analyzes carried out by the research team, this hyperglycemia is linked to abnormal levels of insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. The hyperglycaemic patients thus presented high levels of proinsulin, the precursor of insulin, and signs of an alteration of the beta cells of the islets of Langerhans, the area of the pancreas which manufactures and secretes insulin. Clearly, the pancreatic function of patients would be impaired, and this long after infection.
For the authors of the study, in view of these results, it is therefore possible that a wave of cases of diabetes and other metabolic problems is observed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This study is one of the first to show that Covid-19 has a direct effect on the pancreas”, Explains Paulo Fiorina, who directed this work, in a communicated. “This indicates that the pancreas is another target of the virus affecting not only the acute phase during hospitalization but potentially also the long-term health of these patients.”.
The researchers believe that these data are in favor of monitoring the pancreatic function of Covid patients, during their hospitalization and over the long term.