Examining the relationship between COVID-19 and diabetes

422 million people worldwide are living with diabetes, and unfortunately, this population has shown a more severe presentation of the virus. We continue to learn more about COVID-19 each day, but there are still many questions that remain unanswered.  

In April 2020, the public became aware of the correlation between COVID-19 and kidney failure. Two months later, scientists have determined that this correlation may be a two-way street. They are positing that diabetes, and other kidney-related health issues like hypertension and coronary heart disease, increase the severity of the COVID-19 symptoms. Furthermore, researchers are finding evidence that indicates the virus is likely exacerbating and inducing diabetes.

Diabetes researchers are examining this phenomenon. Recent information published in The New England Journal of Medicine stated that this virus binds to ACE2 receptors, in organs and tissues, including the kidneys. This binding process is believed to change the metabolism of glucose through genetic alteration and may be changing the way in which preexisting diabetes is initiated.  

To answer the multitude of questions surrounding these associations, diabetes researchers, associated with the CoviDIAB Project, have created a registry of patients with COVID-19 - related diabetes. The goal of this international registry is to determine “the extent and phenotype of new-onset diabetes” in patients with confirmed COVID-19, a negative history of diabetes and normal Hemoglobin A1c levels.

In addition to this link to diabetes, medical providers have seen an alarming number of COVID-19 positive patients with kidney damage. Not only has this correlation between COVID-19 and kidney damage added to the number of unknowns around this novel coronavirus, but it has exacerbated the strain on hospitals and medical professionals. With this unexpected surge in kidney issues, many hospitals have experienced a drastic shortage of dialysis machines and trained staff. This also has raised the question of whether or not these kidney problems will persist once the patient has recovered from COVID-19, or if these additional resources will be necessary indefinitely.

As this is an ever-changing piece of the global pandemic, the Northwest Kidney Council will be tracking the progression of information and sharing data on COVID-19 and its impact on the kidney community. Join the NWKC to receive updates and stay informed.