Australia

Scientists uncover evidence coronavirus could trigger diabetes in healthy adults

A new study has found evidence coronavirus could be causing diabetes in otherwise healthy adults. Source: AAP

A new study involving Australian researchers has found there is evidence COVID-19 could be causing diabetes in otherwise healthy adults.

Coronavirus may be triggering diabetes in typically healthy adults.

Elderly Australians with diabetes are also at an increased risk from coronavirus, a study released on Friday shows.

Co-author and Monash University professor Paul Zimmet said diabetic children would not be at risk provided they had adequate care.

The study - from an international panel of medical experts and published in The Lancet medical journal - said it hasn't confirmed COVID-19 is inducing diabetes, but there is evidence it could be.

Italian medical experts had reported severe diabetic symptoms in people with no history of the disease after they'd been hospitalised with coronavirus.

"New cases should actually be tested to make sure they haven't got diabetes because it'll make the prognosis worse," Professor Zimmet said.

He said it was believed the virus was damaging the pancreas, causing diabetes when a patient's body was unable to produce enough insulin.

"They found that these people actually require massive doses of insulin, which suggests that the body is becoming resistant," he said.

Diabetes is a result of your body's inability to make enough insulin, which controls blood sugar and fat levels.

He said people with diabetes should take extra care to protect themselves from infection and doctors should be testing for diabetes in new patients.

"It's elderly people in particular with type two diabetes who are at higher risk of dying," Professor Zimmet said.

"They are people ... who have got other things such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and other sorts of co-morbidities."

The study found people with diabetes faced a 50 per cent higher risk of dying from coronavirus, with elderly type two diabetics in more danger.

Professor Zimmet said by 12 April in Australia, 20 per cent of the 752 hospitalised with coronavirus had diabetes.
Social distancing measures were detaching people from their doctors at a time they needed their blood sugar levels closely monitored, Professor Zimmet said.

"People are being told to stay at home and they're scared to go to their doctor's surgery in case they get the virus," he said.

Type one diabetics were less at risk than adult-type two diabetics, which made-up some 85 per cent of Australia's diabetic cases.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

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