High blood sugar levels impacts the severity of COVID-19 irrespective of whether someone has diabetes or not, researchers have said.

A team based in New York said this is the first study that has looked at how hyperglycemia impact the health outcome of COVID-19 among black people.

Their findings showed that people who were admitted to hospital with coronavirus and high blood sugar levels were more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit or need a breathing machine. In addition, those people were also more likely to develop a kidney issue or die.

Dr Samara Skwiersky, an internal medicine resident physician at the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center, said: “COVID-19 patients presenting to the hospital with hyperglycemia require closer observation, as they are likely to require more aggressive therapies.”

The study involved just over 708 people, 89 per cent of whom were black and half of them had a history of either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

The researchers studied their blood glucose levels on admission to hospital. Guidelines recommend people with diabetes who are admitted to hospital should maintain blood glucose levels between 140 and 180 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). But the research team found those people whose levels exceeded 140 had a 2.4-fold increased odds of ICU admission and help breathing.

Those who were higher than 180 mg/dL had an approximately twofold increased odds of in-hospital death.

Dr Skwiersky said: “The results from our study reiterate the importance of regularly monitoring blood glucose in patients hospitalized with COVID-19, even without a prior diagnosis of diabetes.

“More frequent glucose monitoring and treatment with insulin therapy to a target glucose value less than 140 mg/dL could improve outcomes in these patients.”

The findings were published at the ENDO 2021, the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting.

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