- Veterans study shows 39% increased risk six months after Covid
- Doctors probe possibility virus harms insulin-producing cells
When Ziyad Al-Aly’s research team told him how often diabetes appeared to strike Covid-19 survivors, he thought the data must be wrong, so he asked his five colleagues to crunch the numbers again.
Weeks later, they returned the same findings after sifting through millions of patient records. By then Al-Aly had also gone digging into the scientific literature and was starting to come to terms with an alarming reality: Covid-19 isn’t just deadlier for people with diabetes, it’s also triggering the metabolic disease in many who didn’t previously have it.
“It took a while to convince me,” said Al-Aly, who directs the clinical epidemiology center at the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System in Missouri. “It was hard to believe that Covid could be doing this.”
Among Covid-19’s many ripple effects, the worsening of the global diabetes burden could carry a heavy public-health toll. The underlying mechanisms stoking new-onset diabetes aren’t clear, though some doctors suspect the SARS-CoV-2 virus may damage the pancreas, the gland that makes insulin which is needed to convert blood-sugar into energy. Sedentary lifestyles brought on by lockdowns could also be playing a role, as might late diagnoses after people avoided doctors’ offices. Even some children’s mild coronavirus cases can be followed by the swift onset of diabetes, scientists found.