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June 15, 2022

Why Diabetes Clinical Research Is Even More Important Post-Pandemic

This World Diabetes Week, here's why clinical trials are important for diabetic patients

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      Aoife Delany

      Aoife Delany

      Lead Clinical Information Designer


    As we begin to emerge from the global pandemic, clinical research is more important now than ever before to combat the complex medical problems of our time. This is especially true for diabetes as there is growing evidence to suggest that COVID-19 might cause diabetes or worsen it in existing diabetic patients.

    According to the International Diabetes Federation, approximately 527 million adults and 1.2 million children are living with diabetes globally, a number predicted to rise to 643 million by 2030. As almost 532 million cases of COVID-19 infection have been reported (as of June 9 2022) to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, diabetes cases could skyrocket even further in the coming years.

    Concerns about diabetes began to circulate early in the pandemic as doctors noticed increasing cases of diabetes in COVID patients despite having no related history. For some patients, diabetic symptoms subsided after infection, but many did not recover. Data from larger studies is beginning to emerge with figures from a recent study published in the Lancet indicating that COVID-19 patients may be 40% more likely to develop diabetes versus those who have not been infected by the virus – equating to an additional 13 diagnoses of diabetes per 1,000 people.

    The research worryingly indicates that children are particularly vulnerable to developing type 1 diabetes post-infection, with CDC estimates suggesting that they could be 31% to 166% more likely to develop diabetes than children who had not been infected.

    As the exact cause of type 1 diabetes remains unknown, clinical research is essential to advancing our knowledge of this disease to improve patient outcomes. Viral infections like COVID-19 have long been linked to type 1 diabetes. It’s unclear how viruses contribute to diabetes, but evidence suggests that some viruses infect and damage the insulin producing β-cells of the pancreas while other viruses may trigger a severe immune response during infection which damages these cells. As a result of this damage, diabetic patients are unable to produce insulin for sugar absorption and regulation. Understanding the ways through which COVID-19 may cause diabetes could further increase our knowledge of the disease, paving the way for new and exciting clinical research and improved treatments for diabetic patients.

    Interestingly, scientists are also working with the theory that perhaps COVID-19 may even be causing a brand-new type of diabetes where blood sugar levels rise when the body is under stress fighting the infection, or in response to treatments designed to clear the infection. Should a new form of coronavirus-related diabetes emerge, clinical research will be more important than ever to find solutions to combat this new post-pandemic challenge.