Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Doctors have found a horrible new coronavirus complication

Published Apr 23rd, 2020 1:13PM EDT
Coronavirus Treatment
Image: John Minchillo/AP/Shutterstock

If you buy through a BGR link, we may earn an affiliate commission, helping support our expert product labs.

  • High blood sugar levels may lead to coronavirus complications, as sugar mediates the link between the novel virus and cell receptors.
  • A new study says that blood sugar may increase even in patients who aren’t known to be diabetics as a result of the COVID-19 infection.
  • The research says that hydroxychloroquine could be used to block processes that add sugars to protein, and thus improve the condition of COVID-19 patients.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

For a substance that tastes so good, sugar is one of the things around you that can put your life in danger. It’s a risk factor for a number of diseases, and it turns out that COVID-19 can be added to that list. New research says the more sugar you consume, the worse your novel coronavirus case might be. And that doesn’t go just for patients who already suffer from diabetes, a condition that has previously associated with COVID-19 complications. High sugar intake might be of concern in non-diabetics who are infected with the new coronavirus. And the study proposes as a fix for the sugar problem a controversial coronavirus drug you’ve heard of everywhere on TV. The anti-malarial hydroxychloroquine might play a role in reducing sugar concentration in some key areas and thus improve the prognosis of certain patients.

Professor of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Adam M. Brufsky explained in an article on The Conversation the findings of his recent peer-reviewed study of how sugar can affect the outcome of COVID-19 patients. The doctor explains that the virus binds to the ACE2 receptor found on various cells, including the lung cells where SARS-CoV-2 multiplies. Both the virus and the ACE2 receptors need sugar molecules attached to their protein for the connection to take place. Therefore, the COVID-19 infection might be impacted by the concentration of sugar-coated virus and ACE 2 receptor.

The sugar concentration in the virus’s spike protein might also affect the lung’s immune response within 8 to 10 days after the onset of symptoms.

Doctors treating COVID-19 patients observed that it’s not just diabetics and pre-diabetics who had high blood sugar upon admission. That’s because ACE2 receptors are also found on islet cells of the pancreas that are responsible for the production of insulin, which is used to keep the blood sugar under control.

If the virus reaches the pancreas it can hinder the creation of insulin, which in turn raises the blood sugar levels of the host and ensures that the virus can hook up to more ACE2 receptors, mainly the ones in the lung. COVID-19 complications occur because of various degrees of respiratory failure combined with other issues that can be caused by an exacerbated immune response.

A blood sugar test that diabetics might be familiar with, hemoglobin A1c, could be used as a marker for patients at risk for COVID-19.

Brufsky also theorizes that hydroxychloroquine can be used to block processes in the cell that add sugars to proteins. This would hinder the virus’s ability to bind to ACE2 proteins and modulate the inflammatory response. The doctor said that it’s unclear whether the drug would work for everyone and warned that more research is required. Indeed, recent studies have shown evidence that hydroxychloroquine might not help all COVID-19 patients.

But if blood sugar is indeed favoring the continued interaction between the novel coronavirus and cells, then keeping blood sugar in check for COVID-19 patients may become a priority for physicians, whether hydroxychloroquine is used or not. Conversely, while you’re self-isolating, you might consider exercising indoors and balancing your diet to reduce sugar intake. Diabetics also need to monitor their blood sugar levels closely and look for unusual spikes.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

More Science