Those who take metformin to manage their type 2 diabetes are less likely to die from COVID-19 should they become infected, researchers have said.

Previous studies have shown that diabetes is a significant condition, which can impact how ill someone who contracts coronavirus can be.

But now a team from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) say they have found evidence to suggest that the popular type 2 diabetes drug metformin might offer a level of protection from dying with the killer virus.

Lead study author Dr Anath Shalev, director of UAB’s Comprehensive Diabetes Center, said: “This beneficial effect remained, even after correcting for age, sex, race, obesity, and hypertension or chronic kidney disease and heart failure.

“Since similar results have now been obtained in different populations from around the world, including China, France and a United Healthcare analysis, this suggests that the observed reduction in mortality risk associated with metformin use in subjects with type 2 diabetes and COVID-19 might be generalisable.”

Despite the findings, the researchers are still not sure why metformin improves the coronavirus prognosis.

Although Dr Shalev said it might have something to do with the drug’s “previously described anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombotic effects”.

She added: “These results suggest that, while diabetes is an independent risk factor for COVID-19-related mortality, this risk is dramatically reduced in subjects taking metformin – raising the possibility that metformin may provide a protective approach in this high-risk population.”

The findings were first published in MedRxiv and have now appeared in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Endocrinology.

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