In a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine, in August, 17 medical experts floated another possibility: Could it be that COVID-19 is the trigger? As they noted in their letter, some of the organs involved in controlling blood sugar are rich in a receptor called ACE2 — one COVID-19 is known to use to infect cells. As it does so, the virus may destroy the body’s insulin-producing cells, essentially bringing on what may be its own kind of diabetes.
“There have been a number of cases that look like there was no risk for diabetes — no family history, no phenotype of type 2 or type 1 diabetes, no antibodies and other antigens that are typical of type 1,” Eckel says. “So this looks like it may be a unique form of diabetes.”
But experts say more research is needed. To that end, Eckel and 16 other diabetes researchers from around the world are working together “to understand if this is a unique type of diabetes or if, in fact, it’s the super-imposition of a stress condition such as hospitalization for COVID-19” causing the mysterious new diagnosis of diabetes.