New-onset diabetes soon could be added to the list of secondary ailments tied to COVID-19, a new report suggests.

Elevated blood sugar in COVID-19 patients was noticed early in the pandemic, and viral infections are known to be linked to diabetes diagnoses. In some cases, COVID-19 patients already have risk factors for diabetes. Others have been treated with the steroid dexamethasone during their illness, which can cause elevated blood glucose. Yet some cases are occurring in patients who have no known risk factors or prior health concerns, the Washington Post reported Monday. And some patients are receiving a diabetes diagnoses months after they’ve recovered. 

These mystery cases include type 1 and type 2 diabetes — some temporary and others long-lasting — but “scientists do not know whether COVID-19 might hasten already developing problems or actually cause them — or both,” the news outlet reported.

An analysis of studies published in November found that 14% of 3,700 hospitalized COVID-19 patients had newly diagnosed diabetes. New onset diabetes also was tied to a poor COVID‐19 prognosis when compared with patients who had no diabetes or pre‐existing diabetes. 

“We are now seeing a classic example of a lethal intersection between a communicable and a non‐communicable disease,” wrote Paul Zimmet, Ph.D., of Monash University in Australia. “COVID‐19 patients with newly diagnosed diabetes should be managed early and appropriately and closely monitored for the emergence of full‐blown diabetes and other cardiometabolic disorders in the long term,” he and his colleagues concluded at the time.

Researchers have set up a global registry of cases for further study, according to the Post.

In related news

Hypoglycemia discussions found lacking for patients with diabetes
Ideally, primary care physicians should discuss hypoglycemia prevention and safety in every visit with a patient who has diabetes and takes high-risk medications such as insulin. But the topic came up in only a quarter of these visits, according to a new study of 83 primary care visits by Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers. The investigators are advocating for a system to routinely assess for hypoglycemia in primary care visits.