A new study launched with the help of University of Florida researchers suggests that COVID-19 is unlikely to trigger or worsen Type 1 diabetes, according to a news release from the university’s medical school.
Researchers at the UF Diabetes Institute and other centers looked to see if a protein thought to be the coronavirus entry into the body was present in insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Patients who already have diabetes have been seen as more at risk for serious illness or death from coronavirus infections.
“This does not provide support to the notion that you’re going to develop diabetes because the coronavirus goes in and destroys an individual’s insulin-producing cells,” Mark Atkinson, director of the institute and a researcher of Type 1 diabetes, said in a statement.
The study was placed as a “preprint” on the online website bioRxiv.org. It has not been through peer review, and researchers said more work was needed.
Alberto Pugliese, a researcher at the University of Miami Diabetes Research Institute and co-author of the study, said that while there is insufficient evidence to link diabetes onset and coronavirus, he said it is not “definitive” yet. “I think we have to look at a lot more patients and consider alternative ways that the virus could impact diabetes,” he said.
The study was prompted by early reports suggesting a link between COVID-19 and diabetes. In the past, scientists have reported a possible viral trigger with diabetes.
Researchers from six universities and medical clinics worked together to look at pancreatic tissue samples from non-diabetic donors as well as the tissue of three people who had died from COVID-19.
While the study did not find the protein associated with coronavirus in the insulin-producing cells, the protein was found in ducts and in pancreas blood vessels.