As COVID-19 continues to rage across the U.S., researchers are digging deeper into how the virus wreaks havoc on the body, especially for those with a pre-existing chronic illness.
Now, after preliminary observations of 200 COVID-19 patients with severe hyperglycemia, a Michigan Medicine team is shedding light in a new Diabetes paper about why high blood sugar may trigger worse outcomes in people infected with the virus. And researchers have developed a blood sugar management tool that may potentially reduce risk of secondary infections, kidney issues and intensive care stays in people with diabetes, prediabetes or obesity who get COVID-19.
“Based on preliminary observations of our patients, those with one of these pre-existing conditions are at high risk for making the virus-induced respiratory dysfunction much worse, potentially resulting in death,” says first author Roma Gianchandani, M.D., a professor of internal medicine in the Michigan Medicine division of metabolism, endocrinology and diabetes.
Senior author Rodica Pop-Busui M.D., Ph.D., the Larry D. Soderquist professor of diabetes, professor of internal medicine and vice chair of clinical research in the Department of Internal Medicine, suspects it’s the low grade, inflammatory nature of diabetes and hyperglycemia that promote the virus’ inflammatory surge, resulting in insulin resistance and severe hyperglycemia.
“When the body becomes this inflamed, it triggers an abnormal immune response that instead of just attacking the virus, affects the rest of the body’s healthy cells and tissue, leading to rapid deterioration in health,” she says.