Diabetes patients who have also suffered with COVID-19 may have reason to be concerned. The infection may cause long-term health problems, including an increased risk of heart disease.
Dr. Dinender Singla of the College of Medicine has published a paper in the ‘American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology.’ He thoroughly investigated the causes and side effects of COVID-19 on individuals with high-risk diabetes, as well as the virus’s ability to accelerate the condition, causing inflammation and heart failure. He believes that people with diabetes or those inclined to the illness have a hereditary predisposition to post-COVID inflammatory disorders that affect the heart and brain.
“We believe that COVID-19 can alter a person’s genetic makeup which can enhance the proliferation of disease and cause further deterioration in diabetes and associated heart disease,” explained Dr. Singla, who is the Advent Health Chair of Cardiovascular Science at the College of Medicine.
“Our thinking is COVID-19 could have three major long-term effects on patients,
Dr. Singla noted. “One is cognitive dysfunction, which can lead to Alzheimer’s disease. Second, it can enhance diabetes in pre-diabetic patients or pre-diabetic conditions. Third, it can exacerbate complications of diabetes such as cardiomyopathy or muscle dysfunction.”
Dr. Singla hypothesises that certain diabetes patients who were infected with COVID-19 acquired a different cellular makeup in their blood than diabetic individuals who were never infected with COVID. The next phase in his research will be to compare particular cellular variations between
“Our goal is to look into whether there is a difference in blood composition or variations in cytokines – proteins that affect communications between cells – compared to the non-COVID diabetic patients,” Dr. Singla said. “If any differences are noted, then we would need to examine what kind of diseases they could potentially cause or enhance in those patients.”
COVID-19 has infected over 600 million people globally, and while vaccinations have rendered the virus less dangerous than it was two years ago, Dr. Singla says there are still many unsolved issues concerning COVID’s long-term impact on health.
“For example, if someone was genetically predisposed to developing heart disease or Alzheimer’s disease, if that person is affected by COVID-19, will that person develop heart disease or Alzheimer’s earlier than they were predisposed to?” Dr. Singla said. “Also how severe will their disease be and will it be different in people who contracted or did not have COVID-19?” Dr. Singla said he is currently working on securing funding to explore the unanswered questions left in the wake of the virus.
“We want to know will diabetes be present in patients infected with COVID-19 10 or 20 years from now?” Dr. Singla said. “Will they develop a special type of cardiomyopathy or diabetic muscle pain and will those diseases be much more in enhanced? Having this information will allow us to be one step ahead in developing therapeutics and treatments to manage any variations of diseases that may occur.”