Conference Coverage

Pancreatic involvement in COVID-19: What do we know?


After recovery

The most recent research reveals the persistence of this dysregulation long after recovery from COVID-19. “We’ve seen that in a significant proportion of patients, hyperglycemia is maintained for some time; in the specific case of hospitalized patients [without the need for assisted ventilation or other intensive care requirements], for up to more than 2 months after overcoming the illness.

“In the same way, there are studies that have shown that insulin resistance and hyperstimulation of pancreatic beta cells remain at pathological levels in the post–COVID-19 phase. And in line with increased insulin resistance, signs of hyperinflammation have also been detected in these patients.”

Dr. Kleger noted that another research area is the increased incidence of newly diagnosed diabetes after recovery from SARS-CoV-2 infection, “something that seems to be correlated with how severely the disease has been experienced and also depending on whether hospitalization or intensive care was needed. Likewise, retrospective studies have shown that the risk of developing type 2 diabetes is higher in COVID-19 patients, compared with those with other respiratory infections. Regarding the incidence of type 1 diabetes, there is evidence, particularly in the case of children, of a clear correlation between the pandemic waves and the increase in cases.

“Therefore, and in view of this data, we could say that, with regard to the involvement of SARS-CoV-2 in pancreatic beta cells, something is up, but we are not yet able to fully understand what it is. What can be confirmed based on the numerous studies carried out in this regard is that COVID-19 produces a metabolic dysregulation [hyperglycemia, insulin resistance, diabetic ketoacidosis] which in turn favors the development of diabetes in patients with no history of this disease,” said Dr. Kleger.

“Likewise, everything points to the existence of a definitively feasible infection in pancreatic beta cells associated with SARS-CoV-2, but there are still unknown aspects of the physiology that explain this effect that remain the subject of debate and deserve future studies,” he concluded.

Consequences of the pandemic

The experts agreed that, although COVID-19 is no longer at the center of specialist care, it is still a subject of investigation. On the conference’s opening day, an update was made on the approach to diabetes.

Care activity is gradually recovering as the time that professionals devote to COVID-19 care is reduced, “but it will take time to catch up with the care activities not carried out during the pandemic, and, unfortunately, in the coming years, we will see the repercussion of the lack or reduction of care during these years,” stressed the SED chair, Antonio Pérez Pérez, MD, director of endocrinology and nutrition of Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, Barcelona.

Dr. Pérez stressed that the pandemic has revealed health system deficiencies in diabetes care. He added that the impact of COVID-19 on diabetes (resulting from the effects of the infection itself or from the inadequacy of prevention, diagnosis, and treatment measures) fostered a deterioration of metabolic control and a delay in the diagnosis of the disease and its complications.

“All this contributes to the fact that we currently continue to see patients with complications, especially in the case of type 2 diabetes, with more serious decompensations and diagnoses in more advanced stages of the disease. This impact has been more significant in older people from disadvantaged areas and with less capacity for self-monitoring and self-adjustment of treatment,” he added.

Describing lessons learned through the experiences accumulated in diabetes care during the pandemic, Dr. Pérez highlighted the push for virtual consultations, accessibility to drugs prescribed in electronic prescriptions, and the use of educational resources online and of telemedicine tools. “The need to invest in the health sector has also been assumed, endowing it with robustness in well-trained health personnel, to promote health education, boost efficient health organization, and invest in innovation aimed at facilitating care.”

Dr. Kleger and Dr. Pérez disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

A version of this article appeared on This article was translated from the Medscape Spanish edition.


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