Several preliminary studies have warned people with diabetes and other underlying conditions are at higher risk of getting coronavirus infection. Meanwhile, a new study at Wuhan University suggests that diabetics with high blood glucose have more chances of succumbing to the disease.

According to Mirror, the study found out that SARS-CoV-2 triggers cytokine storm, a process when a large amount of immune responses are produced in the body and do more harm than good. Cytokine is a substance that is released by certain cells of the immune system and it is believed that flu infections cause an increase in its production in the cells.

"We believe that glucose metabolism contributes to various COVID-19 outcomes. Both influenza and COVID-19 can induce a cytokine storm. COVID-19 patients with diabetes have shown higher mortality. Diseases such as COVID-19 and flu can be fatal due to an overreaction of the body's immune system - a cytokine storm," explains co-author of the study Dr. Shi Liu.

Severe symptoms of flu infections and COVID-19 are closely related to diabetics. However, high glucose levels could also be another factor contributing to more deaths of diabetic patients.

The finding was reportedly published in Science Advances and the study was conducted on mice. It was discovered that the mice with glucosamine dose showed higher levels of inflammatory cytokines when compared to those without any sugar supplements.

In addition, the scientists at the university conducted a comparative analysis of the glucose levels in blood samples of healthy volunteers and those who suffered from flu between 2017 and 2019.

The study helped the scientists conclude that glucose leads to cytokine storm, sometimes the cause of complications or fatalities in diseased persons. However, the mechanism remains unknown.

"Glucose serves as a major nutrient that fuels cellular metabolic activities. Nevertheless, it remains unclear whether the two systems interact with each other during flu infection," Liu said.

The findings are expected to help scientists understand what makes diabetes patients more vulnerable to death caused by COVID-19, a severe respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus. Meanwhile, Liu urges for more research on the topic to develop a better understanding of "regulatory mechanisms between flu-induced cytokine storm and glucose metabolism."

"Our current findings may provide a potential target for the treatment of flu infection in the future," he added.

Novel coronavirus
A medical worker prepares to conduct a test for COVID-19 in Manila. Photo: AFP / Ted ALJIBE

As of Friday, COVID-19, a pandemic, has caused 146, 873 deaths and more than 2,100,000 confirmed cases.