The Covid-19 virus could increase the risk of developing diabetes. This was discovered by researchers at the University of Osaka in Japan, who in a study published in June in Metabolism, showed that Covid can cause metabolism problems, and sometimes even diabetes, by interfering with insulin signaling.
While there is now more evidence that the virus affects different organs (and not just the lungs), this study reveals a new potential side effect of the disease: in particular, the researchers point out, disruption of blood sugar regulation can lead to a new onset diabetes. However, it is not clear how Covid infection causes these effects.
The study: “Covid interferes with blood sugar”
Experts have identified a fundamental gene which mediates the effects of Covid infection on blood glucose metabolism. “The insulin / IGF signaling pathway is a key pathway in regulating energy metabolism and cell survival, so we suspected that Covid affected this signaling pathway to cause problems with blood sugar regulation,” says Jihoon Shin, first author of the study.
To demonstrate this, the researchers analyzed genetic datasets from different patients, comparing infected with healthy ones. “The results have been amazing,” he says Iichiro Shimomura among the authors of the study «The Covid infection has influenced some components of the insulin / IGF signaling pathway in the lung, liver, adipose tissue and pancreatic cells. These changes were partly attributed to the activation of the interferon regulatory factor 1 (IRF1) ‘.
A possible cure for the patients most at risk
Further investigations have then shown that this interferon is higher in patients elderly, men, obese individuals and patients with diabetes and this could partly explain why these patients are more vulnerable to Covid. Furthermore, in the case of specific treatments to reduce interferon IRF1, patients infected with Covid have shown an improvement.
«Our results suggest that SARS-CoV-2 alters insulin / IGF signaling increasing the expression of IRF1, thus disrupting blood glucose metabolism. The decrease in the expression of IRF1 by the treatment with factors such as dihydrotestosterone and dexamethasone it could help mitigate the effects of COVID-19, ”says Shin.