By EJ Mundell
MONDAY, July 13, 2020 (HealthDay News) – Bodies stressed by severe COVID-19 could produce abnormally high blood sugar levels, even in people without diagnosed diabetes. And this seems to be linked to a doubling of the chances of dying from COVID-19, according to Chinese researchers.
High blood sugar (glucose) levels, measured at the time of hospital admission, have also been linked to more serious illnesses and complications, according to researchers led by Dr. Yang Jin of Union Hospital and Tongji Medical College, Wuhan, China. Wuhan was the epicenter of origin for the global COVID-19 pandemic.
As the researchers explained, diabetes has long been known to greatly increase the chances of developing serious and even fatal COVID-19 in people infected with the new coronavirus.
But what about the effect of high blood sugar, even in people who have not been diagnosed with diabetes?
To find out, Jin’s group examined the medical records of more than 600 consecutive patients treated in two hospitals in Wuhan for nearly a month in January and February. The patients were on average 59 years old.
The researchers looked in particular at each patient’s blood sugar readings, the severity of their COVID-19-related pneumonia, and the patient’s outcomes in terms of severity of illness and death. None of the patients had been diagnosed with diabetes.
A total of 114 patients died in hospital from their illness, said the Jin team. Men were 75% more likely to die than women.
High fasting blood sugar was found to be highly predictive of death, researchers reported in the journal July 10 Diabetologia.
This is true “whether or not the patient has [COVID-19-linked] pneumonia that is more or less severe, “said the team – suggesting that the effect of hyperglycemia on the risk of death is independent of the severity of the patient’s respiratory disease.
Across the entire patient group, about a third (29%) fell into a very high fasting blood glucose category – so high that if it were constant over time, these patients would be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Another 17% had levels similar to those of “pre-diabetics”.
The study found that patients in the very high blood glucose category were 2.3 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those with the lowest blood sugar levels, and even those whose values suggested prediabetes had 71% higher risk of death.
The chances of dangerous complications from COVID-19 were also four times higher in people with high blood sugar and 2.6 times higher in those with high blood sugar before diabetes, said the Chinese team in a European press release. Association for the study of diabetes.
Diabetes expert Dr. Minisha Sood is an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. Reading the new study, she noted that even in people without diabetes, blood sugar can rise in response to serious illness.
“The increase in blood sugar due to illness is called stress hyperglycemia,” she said. “The body, under stress, produces hormones and a reaction to the disease that raises blood sugar.”
However, these spikes don’t usually occur in previously healthy individuals, noted Sood.
“The higher blood sugar levels in patients who ultimately succumb to COVID-19 compared to other patients with normal blood sugar levels despite COVID-19 infection may be a sign that their underlying systems are not as healthy as those who have no stress hyperglycemia, “she said. said.
According to Chinese authors, stress hyperglycemia may indeed have struck many Wuhan patients because the 29% of patients who landed in the highest blood sugar group “is much higher than the estimated prevalence of diabetes in the Chinese population at 12%. “
Based on the results, the study authors advised that close monitoring of blood sugar levels be added to the list of tests that doctors use to monitor risks for patients with COVID-19 .
“The bottom line is that everyone will react to the disease in their own way,” she said, “and it would be useful to have some means of predicting who could have a worse outcome from a COVID-19 infection. admission to hospital may be one of these predictive measures. “
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