It has long been known: Diabetes is a risk factor for a severe course of Covid-19. But now studies confirm another connection between the metabolic disorder and the virus.
In the course of the corona pandemic, it has been shown that people with diabetes are at an increased risk of severe Covid 19 disease. However, according to new studies, a serious Covid disease can also be a trigger for diabetes.
Various studies have shown that an average of around 15 percent of Covid 19 patients in hospitals suffer from newly diagnosed diabetes.
Corona and diabetes: Virus can infect the pancreas
An international study with the participation of the University of Basel has now shown that the coronavirus can actually infect cells of the pancreas. The scientists report on this in the journal “Cell Metabolism”. The so-called beta cells produce the hormone insulin, which stimulates tissue cells to absorb sugar from the blood – and thereby lower blood sugar.
Unlike in the lung tissue, where that Coronavirus mainly using a protein called ACE2 as the entry point into the cells, the beta cells of the pancreas have only small amounts of ACE2. Therefore, it was previously unclear whether and how the virus penetrates these cells. To answer this question, the researchers analyzed tissue samples from seven deceased Covid-19 patients from Basel.
The result: The coronavirus could be detected in the beta cells of the pancreas of the deceased. In addition, these cells contained large amounts of a protein that the virus can use as an entry point as an alternative to ACE2: Neuropilin 1 (NRP1).
Possible protection even in the event of a severe Covid course
Laboratory tests with cultured beta cells also showed that infected cells produced less insulin and showed signs of death. When the researchers also blocked Neuropilin 1 with an inhibitor, the virus was much less able to penetrate the cells.
The fact that the infection of the beta cells could be reduced in this way, at least in laboratory tests, shows that these cells could possibly also be protected in patients with a severe course of Covid-19.
Will diabetes subside after recovery from Covid-19?
“Whether the sugar metabolism will return to normal in all Covid-19 patients after an infection has been overcome and whether and how often persistent diabetes can develop cannot be said with certainty according to the current state of studies,” explains pathologist Dr. Matthias Matter from the University of Basel in a communication.
There are indications that those affected with Long Covid, i.e. persistent complaints after the infection, still have a few weeks to months afterwards Diabetes was ascertainable. It therefore makes sense to develop a way of preventing permanent damage to the pancreas.
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