From the Journals

‘The story unfolding is worrisome’ for diabetes and COVID-19


The American Diabetes Association has dedicated a whole section of its journal, Diabetes Care, to the topic of “Diabetes and COVID-19,” publishing a range of articles with new data to help guide physicians in caring for patients.

“Certain groups are more vulnerable to COVID-19, notably older people and those with underlying medical conditions. Because diabetes is one of the conditions associated with high risk, the diabetes community urgently needs to know more about COVID-19 and its effects on people with diabetes,” an introductory commentary noted.

Entitled “COVID-19 in people with diabetes: Urgently needed lessons from early reports,” the commentary is penned by the journal’s editor-in-chief, Matthew Riddle, MD, of Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, and colleagues.

Also writing in the same issue, William T. Cefalu, MD, and colleagues from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) noted it is known that the SARS-CoV-2 virus enters cells via the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE-2) receptor. The ACE-2 receptor is known to be in the lungs and upper respiratory tract, “but we also know that it is expressed in other tissues such as heart, small and large intestines, and pancreas,” they wrote, and also “in the kidney.”

Hence, there are emerging reports of acute kidney injury resulting from COVID-19, as well as the impact on many other endocrine/metabolic and gastrointestinal outcomes.

“Pilot clinical studies (observational and interventional) are needed that will support the understanding or treatment of COVID-19–related diseases within the mission of the NIDDK,” they stated.

Although rapidly collected, data “offer important clues”

Some of the new ground covered in the journal articles includes an analysis of COVID-19 outcomes by type of glucose-lowering medication; remote glucose monitoring in hospitalized patients with COVID-19; a suggested approach to cardiovascular risk management in the COVID-19 era, as already reported by Medscape Medical News; and the diagnosis and management of gestational diabetes during the pandemic.

Other articles provide new data for previously reported phenomena, including obesity as a risk factor for worse COVID-19 outcomes and the role of inpatient glycemic control on COVID-19 outcomes.

“The data reported in these articles were rapidly collected and analyzed, in most cases under urgent and stressful conditions,” Dr. Riddle and colleagues cautioned. “Thus, some of the analyses are understandably limited due to missing data, incomplete follow-up, and inability to identify infected but asymptomatic patients.”

Even so, they wrote, some points are clear. “The consistency of findings in these rapidly published reports is reassuring in terms of scientific validity, but the story unfolding is worrisome.”

Specifically, while diabetes does not appear to increase the likelihood of SARS-CoV-2 infection, progression to severe illness is more likely in people with diabetes and COVID-19: They are two to three times as likely to require intensive care, and to die, compared with those infected but without diabetes.

“Neither the mechanisms underlying the increased risk nor the best interventions to limit it have yet been defined, but the studies in this collection of articles offer important clues,” Dr. Riddle and colleagues wrote.


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