When the COVID-19 pandemic began, doctors first thought that the virus causing the infection (SARS-2-CoV) only infected the lungs, leading to serious breathing problems such as pneumonia. However, doctors quickly realized that other organs could also become infected, including the kidneys, heart, brain, and gut. It became clear that COVID-19 can make people with diabetes very sick. This may be due to high blood sugar and, for some, uncontrolled diabetes leading to ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is when there is not enough insulin in the body, and can be triggered by infection or illness. Some people who were unaware that they had diabetes learned they had it when the COVID-19 infection made their bodies resistant to their own insulin. Now researchers are discovering that the virus that causes COVID-19 can also cause diabetes by infecting the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas (called “islets”). While many have suspected that diabetes could be caused by infection of pancreatic islets, it has been difficult to prove until now.
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