Frontline healthcare staff are being urged to be “more vigilant” when it comes to assessing people with diabetes (PWD) who are presenting COVID-19 symptoms.

A team from the University of Leeds has been looking at data released by Chinese researchers to determine the risk factor for people who have diabetes and other endocrine conditions.

Paul Stewart, Professor of Medicine at the University of Leeds, said: “There is early evidence from China that those patients who have endocrinological disorders face additional risks from COVID-19.

“The scientific picture indicates that these people need to self-isolate, to try and reduce the chance of infection in the same way as the background population. There are endocrinological disorders that affect the body’s ability to make steroid hormones – or glucocorticoids – to help overcome infection. This might make some patients more vulnerable to the effects of the COVID-19 illness.”

Current NHS guidance for COVID-19 for those with diabetes is no different than the general population, although people with either type 1 or type 2 have been urged to be “particularly stringent” in following social distancing measures.

However, the Leeds team say the Chinese data does suggest that although the risk of contracting a viral illness is no greater than those without diabetes, the “severity of disease from viral infections is notably greater”.

They also said that people with diabetes and high blood pressure, were “overrepresented” among those who were extremely unwell with COVID-19.

The researchers said: “Whether this susceptibility to illness severity is especially greater in the case of COVID-19 or simply a reflection of the greater risk posed by diabetes remains uncertain at this point.”

The study has been published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

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