Roundup: COVID Linked to Risk of Diabetes Onset; U.S. Testing mRNA Vaccines Against HIV; and More

COVID Associated to Higher Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Diagnosis in Largest Study to Date

People who have tested positive with COVID-19 have a higher risk of being newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes within 12 months after initial infection, compared to those who were not infected with the coronavirus, according to the largest study yet on the COVID-diabetes link.

The findings in the latest study, published this week in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, a medical journal, included COVID patients who had less severe or asymptomatic infection. However, researchers said the risk of developing new-onset diabetes was greater as the severity of COVID symptoms intensified.

Overall, the researchers determined that those who were diagnosed with COVID-19 were 46 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes for the first time or be prescribed medication to control their blood sugar.

The researchers reviewed the records of more than 181,000 Department of Veterans Affairs patients who were diagnosed with COVID infections between March 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021.

Previous studies have found a probable increased risk of new diabetes diagnoses linked to COVID. But the new study is considered the largest review of medical records to determine the diabetes risk among COVID patients. It also examined the longest period of time after the initial phase of an infection — from one month to a median of nearly one year per patient.

The study’s authors compared the data on COVID patients to the medical records of more than 4.1 million VA patients who did not test positive for COVID during the same period, and another 4.28 million who received medical care from the VA in 2018 and 2019.

How COVID alters the body’s insulin resistance — causing chronic metabolic disorders that were non-existent prior to infection — is not yet known. One theory is that a COVID infection increases inflammation that can impact insulin secretion. Patients already diagnosed with diabetes are more susceptible to severe illness from COVID, compared to those without diabetes.

While type 2 diabetes is unlikely to a new health concern for the vast majority of people with mild Covid-19 disease, the study’s authors urge that anyone who has recovered from COVID to be aware of potentially diabetes related symptoms, such as fatigue, frequent urination and increased thirst and seek medical treatment.

U.S. Begins Clinical Trial of mRNA Vaccines to Prevent HIV, the Virus that Causes AIDS

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, said it has launched the first phase of clinical trial to evaluate three experimental vaccines to prevent HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) — the virus that attacks the body’s immune system and can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

The vaccines in the trial based on the “messenger RNA” (mRNA) technology used in several approved COVID-19 vaccines, including the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

“Finding an HIV vaccine has proven to be a daunting scientific challenge,” said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., NIAID director, said in a news release. “With the success of safe and highly effective COVID-19 vaccines, we have an exciting opportunity to learn whether mRNA technology can achieve similar results against HIV infection.”

An mRNA vaccine essentially provides genetic material that instructs the body to make a protein fragment of a target pathogen, including a virus, which the immune system recognizes and remembers. The body is then can prepare a rigorous response if exposed to that pathogen.

“Each investigational vaccine candidate is designed to present the spike protein found on the surface of HIV that facilitates entry into human cells,” states the NIH news release announcing the launch of the clinical trial.

The NIAID is sponsoring the study, called HVTN 302, and the NIAID-funded HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN), based at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, is conducting the trial.

HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. If HIV is not treated, it can lead to AIDS. There is currently no effective cure. Once people get HIV, they have it for life. But with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled.

The National Institutes of Health, or NIH, is the nation’s medical research agency. It includes 27 institutes and centers, and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Depression, Anxiety Can Linger After Severe, Home-Based COVID, Major Study Finds

People infected with COVID-19, whose initial illness from the virus kept them bedridden for at least seven days — in the hospital or at home — were significantly more likely to experience anxiety and/or depression 16 months later, according to a large, new study published in The Lancet Public Health.

Because the study was observational, researchers were unable to determine the exact link between severe COVID and long-term mental health. The early impact of social isolation from being bedridden for at least a week could have contributed to feelings of anxiety and depression.

However, the already established red flags of “long COVID” — including at least three months of extreme fatigue, trouble with cognition and attention, and a decreased ability to perform common household chores — also seem to be present.

“More than a fifth of the included patients with COVID-19 had a severe acute illness course (the large majority at home, although some in hospital), which was associated with persistent risks of depressive and anxiety symptoms up to 16 months after diagnosis,” the study states.

Researchers reviewed data on 247,249 people across northern Europe — Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom — from February 2020 through August 2021. During that time, about 4 percent of the participants, 9,979 people, tested positive for COVID.

The study’s authors noted: “Long-term mental and physical health consequences of COVID-19 (long COVID) are a persistent public health concern. Little is still known about the long-term mental health of non-hospitalized patients with COVID-19 with varying illness severities.”

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