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The effects of coronavirus on the health of people with diabetes

Project summary

Professor Sattar will look at both the direct and indirect effects of the coronavirus pandemic for people with diabetes. He’ll find out if it has had an impact on risk factors for diabetes complications, and if there’s differences between different groups of people with diabetes. He’ll also explore the effects of having coronavirus on blood sugar levels. These insights could help us understand what needs to be done to minimise any negative consequences of the pandemic, to keep people with diabetes healthy for longer.  

Background to research

The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has caused huge upheaval to routine diabetes care and brought about changes to our ways of living, which could affect how people manage their diabetes. For example, some people find they’re more inactive than usual or eating less healthily. In turn, this could have an impact on people with diabetes’ blood sugar levels, risk of longer-term diabetes complications and other aspects of their health.

There’s also some evidence to suggest that coronavirus can affect how well the pancreas works. The virus uses a protein on the surface of cells, called ACE2, as its doorway to enter and infect cells. ACE2 also plays a role in the release of insulin from the pancreas. But when a virus binds to ACE2 it stops it from doing its usual job, and this – in theory – could reduce the amount of insulin someone makes.

Research aims

Professor Naveed Sattar plans to explore the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown on risk factors for diabetes complications, such as blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, weight and smoking. He will use health records to compare differences in these risk factors and rates of complications in the two years before and after March 2020.  

Professor Sattar and his team also aim to find out if the consequences of the lockdown had a greater adverse impact on certain groups of people with diabetes, based on age, sex, ethnicity, where people live and their type of diabetes. This will be important to know in order to reduce any health inequalities.

Finally, they’ll investigate how coronavirus infection affects blood sugar levels. And look at whether it can trigger type 2 diabetes in people who are already at high risk, because ACE2 is prevented from helping the pancreas produce enough insulin.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

This work will be critical to understand the direct and indirect effects of coronavirus on the health of people with diabetes and their risk of complications. It will help us work out what needs to be done to improve diabetes care, reduce health inequalities and minimise the potential negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the health and wellbeing of people with diabetes, so they can live long and healthy lives.

Project adopted by:
In memory of Bob Liddle
Individuals: Ms Phyllis Cartwright
Diabetes UK local groups: Bradford; Newtownabbey
Trusts: Brownlie Charitable Trust; Clive Jay Berkley Foundation; Miss E C Hendry Charitable Trust; Sylvia Aitken Charitable Trust; The Aberbrothock Skea Trust; Thistledown Trust; Sir Donald and Lady Edna Wilson Charitable Trust; Sir Samuel Scott of Yews Trust.
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