Blood glucose control key for type 2 and COVID-19

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

A new study shows that good blood glucose control helps people living with type 2 diabetes deal with COVID-19.

A study conducted in China and reported in the journal Cell Metabolism adds to the evidence that people with type 2 diabetes are at greater risk of a poor outcome should they become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.

But encouragingly the study also showed that people with type 2 whose blood glucose is well controlled fare much better than those with poor blood glucose control.

Dr Hongliang Li from Renmin Hospital and study author said, “We were surprised to see such favourable outcomes among patients with COVID-19 and pre-existing type 2 diabetes.”

About the research

“Considering the higher risk of serious health complications and even death and the lack of specific drugs for COVID-19, our findings indicate that controlling blood glucose well may act to improve the prognosis of patients with COVID-19 and diabetes.”

More than 500 million people around the world have type 2 diabetes. In Australia almost 1.2 million live with the condition.

While it was clear that the health of people with type 2 diabetes would be impacted by COVID-19, Dr Li and colleagues wondered what role a person’s blood glucose control might have on those outcomes.

To find out, they conducted a retrospective longitudinal multi-cantered study including 7,337 confirmed COVID-19 cases enrolled among 19 hospitals in Hubei Province, China. Of those, 952 people had type 2 diabetes and the other 6,385 did not. Among those with diabetes, 282 had well-controlled blood glucose; the other 528 did not.

What the data revealed

The data showed that people admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 and type 2 diabetes required more medical interventions. Despite those interventions, they also had significantly higher mortality (7.8% vs. 2.7%) as well as a greater incidence of multiple organ injury.

However, those with well-controlled blood glucose and COVID-19 were less likely to die than those whose blood glucose was poorly controlled. Meanwhile, those with well-managed type 2 diabetes also received less of other medical interventions including supplemental oxygen and/or ventilation, and had fewer health complications.

Key findings

The researchers say the new findings offer three main messages for people with type 2 diabetes:

  • People with type 2 diabetes are at greater risk of developing complications or may die if they contract COVID-19. Therefore, they should take extra precautions to avoid becoming infected. This includes good hygiene and social distancing.
  • Taking extra care to keep their blood glucose under good control is important to their health.
  • Once infected, patients should have their blood glucose level controlled to maintain it in the right range, in addition to any other needed treatments.

The researchers say they will continue to study the relationship between type 2 diabetes and COVID-19 outcomes. The hope is to learn more about the underlying biology that is leading to poorer outcomes for people with type 2 and high blood glucose.

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