COVID-19 could trigger the onset of diabetes in people who were healthy before they became infected, researchers have said.

Previous research has found people with diabetes had a higher chance of dying if they contracted coronavirus with between 20 to 30 per cent of COVID deaths linked to the condition.

But now, there is evidence to suggest the killer-virus could potentially lead to a diagnosis in diabetes-free people.

The finding comes after 17 of the world’s top diabetes experts came together to launch a global register which will track and measure new cases of diabetes among people who become infected with the coronavirus.

The aim of the CoviDiab Registry project is to investigate the main characteristics of diabetes in people with COVID-19, and to try to find the best treatment strategies for them during the pandemic.

Francesco Rubino, Professor of Metabolic Surgery at King’s College London and co-lead investigator of the CoviDiab Registry project, said: “Diabetes is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases and we are now realizing the consequences of the inevitable clash between two pandemics.

“Given the short period of human contact with this new coronavirus, the exact mechanism by which the virus influences glucose metabolism is still unclear and we don’t know whether the acute manifestation of diabetes in these patients represent classic type 1, type 2 or possibly a new form of diabetes.”

Although research has shown there is an association between COVID-19 and diabetes, experts are still unclear why.

Previous studies have found evidence to suggest the answer lies with the protein ACE-2, which binds to SARS-Cov-2 and therefore allows the virus to enter human cells and starts to create damage to organs and tissues that are crucial to glucose metabolism.

Paul Zimmet, Professor of Diabetes at Monash University in Melbourne, Honorary President of the International Diabetes Federation and co-lead investigator in the CoviDiab Registry project said: “We don’t yet know the magnitude of the new onset diabetes in COVID-19 and if it will persist or resolve after the infection; and if so, whether or not or COVID-19 increases risk of future diabetes.

“By establishing this Global Registry, we are calling on the international medical community to rapidly share relevant clinical observations that can help answer these questions.”

Stephanie Amiel, Professor of Diabetes Research at King’s College London and a co-investigator of the CoviDiab Registry project added: “The registry focuses on routinely collected clinical data that will help us examine insulin secretory capacity, insulin resistance and autoimmune antibody status to understand how COVID-19 related diabetes develops, its natural history and best management. Studying COVID-19-related diabetes may uncover novel mechanisms of disease.”

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