PARIS: Patients with abnormally high blood sugar levels are more than twice as likely to die from COVID-19, researchers in China said yesterday. It is the first time scientists have been able to confirm that patients with hyperglycemia, but not diagnosed with diabetes, are at higher risk of death from COVID-19, they wrote in the journal Diabetologia. The researchers examined death rates for 605 COVID-19 patients at two hospitals in Wuhan, China.
Having high blood pressure is “independently associated” with increased risk of death and complications from COVID-19, they wrote. The study builds on previous research on diabetic patients. One-in-10 COVID-19 patients with diabetes died in French hospitals, a far higher proportion than for patients without the condition, a May study in the same journal found.
Exactly why high blood sugar increases COVID-19 death rates remains clear. The authors of Friday’s study suggested that blood clotting, the weakening of blood vessel linings, and cytokine storm syndrome – an overreaction of the immune system – could all play a role. The authors of the report urged hospitals to test all COVID-19 patients for glucose levels, as opposed to only those known to have diabetes.
Also, scientists said Thursday there is “strong evidence” that COVID-19- positive mothers can pass the virus on to their unborn infants, in findings that could affect how pregnant women are shielded during the pandemic. While there have been isolated cases of babies infected with the virus, the findings show the strongest link yet between mother and infant transmission.
Researchers in Italy studied 31 pregnant women hospitalized with COVID-19, and found the virus in an at-term placenta, umbilical cord, the vagina of one woman and in breast milk. They also identified specific COVID-19 antibodies in the umbilical cords of several pregnant women as well as in milk specimens.
Claudio Fenizia, from the University of Milan and lead study author, said the findings “strongly suggest” that in-vitro transmission is possible. “Given the number of infected people worldwide, the number of women that could be affected by this could be potentially very high,” he told AFP. Fenizia stressed that none of the infants born during the study period tested positive for COVID-19. “Although in utero transmission seems to be possible, it is too early to clearly assess the risk and potential consequences,” he said.
Among other findings, the team identified a specific inflammatory response triggered by COVID-19 in the women’s placenta and umbilical cord blood plasma. Fenizia said that the women studied were all in their third trimester, given the timeframe of Italy’s epidemic, adding that more research is currently under way among COVID-19-positive women in the early stages of pregnancy.
“Our study is aimed at raising awareness and inviting the scientific community to consider the pregnancy in positive women as an urgent topic to further characterize and dissect,” he said. “I believe that promoting prevention is the safer advice we could possibly give right now for these patients.” The study was released during a week-long International AIDS Conference, held online for the first time in its history due to the pandemic. – Agencies