Diabetes is dynamite for person with COVID: Ex-WHO advisor

Agencies
June 30,2020

Between 30-40 per cent of deaths from studies in intensive care units from different countries are people with diabetes, said Paul Zimmet, Professor of Diabetes, Monash University, Australia.

Zimmet, who is President International Diabetes Federation, added that the actual mechanism as to why COVID-19 may cause diabetes is as yet unknown, however, several possibilities exist. "COVID-19 is a very destructive and cunning virus and causes terrible damage to tissues including the lungs and pancreas," said Zimmet. Below are excerpts from an exclusive chat with IANS.

Why do you say Diabetes is dynamite if a person has been infected with COVID-19?

There have been many deaths in many countries, e.g. Italy, China, the UK and US among people with diabetes after infection with COVID-19 (SARS-Cov-2).

The mortality tends to be mainly in older Type 2 diabetics. Between 30-40 per cent of deaths from studies in intensive care units from different countries are people with diabetes. This outcome and other complications from the virus, particularly pneumonia, are more likely in people with diabetes which is poorly controlled with high blood sugars (poor metabolic control).

Diabetes is often associated with other chronic conditions, including obesity, hypertension and heart disease compounding the risk. These latter conditions all convey higher risk to COVID-19 infections.

ACE-2, which binds to SARS-Cov-2 and allows the virus to enter human cells is also located in organs and tissues involved in glucose metabolism. Is there solid evidence that virus after entering tissues may cause multiple and complex impairment of glucose metabolism?

The actual mechanism as to why COVID-19 may cause diabetes is as yet unknown.

However, several possibilities exist. Firstly, COVID-19 is a very destructive and cunning virus and causes terrible damage to tissues, including the lungs and pancreas.

A new study just published showed that in miniature lab-grown pancreas, and other cells such as liver, made using human stem cells, COVID-19 caused destruction of the pancreas beta cells that produce insulin.

It is possible that the virus causes disruption of the cells by disrupting cellular metabolism. This is possibly the way it brings about new-onset diabetes. ACE-2 exists in high concentration in the lung as this also explains the terrible lung side effects of COVID-19 infections.

Can COVID-19 lead to a new mechanism of diabetes? Probably a new form of diabetes or a new form of disease?

The COVID-19 virus has only been with us for about 5 months and there is a huge amount that we still must learn about its cunning and devastating ways. The purpose of the Global COVIDIAB Diabetes Registry, a joint initiative of Monash University in Australia, and King’s College London is to gain a much better understanding of how common is the appearance of COVID-19 related diabetes, what form does it take be it type 1 or type 2 or a new form, and how common are the complications that we already know e.g. diabetic keto-acidosis, hyperosmolar coma and high insulin requirements are causing high rates of ill health and mortality worldwide. The knowledge gained will aid our understanding for developing strategies to prevent and treat this terrible virus that has caused destruction globally.

Diabetes is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases in India. According to a recent study, sugar levels of diabetic persons increased by 20 per cent during nationwide lockdown in India to contain COVID-19 outbreak. Even after lockdown was lifted, many people are confined within their home. Do you think lack of physical activity will create more problems for diabetics?

My own major research has been on studying populations with high rates of diabetes, including ethnic Indian communities including India, Mauritius, and Fiji so I am very well aware of this. It is now well established that along with diabetes, that associated poor metabolic control of their diabetes places these people at the highest risk for COVID infection and its devastating complications and the associated morbidity and mortality. And these communities have high prevalence of heart disease as well.

Lockdown not only has deleterious effects on metabolic control of the diabetes through reduced opportunities for exercise to be protective serious consequences of SARS-CoV-2 infection, lockdown usually results in disruption of the regular medical care and the regular monitoring of metabolic control. This may also be partly due to the stress and poor compliance, or inability to afford their medications such as insulin. It may also be compounded by inability to access the care during the pandemic. Nevertheless, we now know that poor metabolic control heightens their risk as described above.

You have said diabetes is itself a pandemic just like Covid-19, and the two pandemics could be clashing. How could governments address this problem?

These are “The Times of COVID-19”. Most nations of the world were totally unprepared for a pandemic of this magnitude. They underestimated its potential impact and the destructive nature of the viral infection. This should prompt all countries to upgrade their guidelines to take into account the lessons learnt on infection control including training of staff specialising in infectious diseases and improved public education and taking their communities into their confidence about the terrible nature of COVID-19. The risks of COVID-19 infection need a much higher priority in the general community, particularly for people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiac conditions.

Governments are faced with chronic diseases (NCDs) like diabetes and communicable diseases (CDs) like viral and enteric diseases and TB. In general WHO gives the highest priority to communicable diseases and much less attention and funding to chronic diseases like diabetes (I was an adviser to WHO for many years (about 30) on diabetes and obesity and it was very frustrating to deal with this situation).

This attitude to diabetes, for example, has a flow down effect so that diabetes funding in countries by governments, rich and poor, suffered and was insufficient.

So now we have a COVID-19 pandemic and who are those at highest risk, yes people with diabetes and other NCDs, it is very important that now the two, Diabetes and COVID-19 are clashing face-to-face. This is a major issue that WHO and national governments have to face with equal priority’

Stressed people suffering from diabetes run a greater risk of poor blood glucose levels, what do you suggest to these people?

As mentioned in the answer above, stress is an important factor in upsetting the blood sugar (metabolic) control of diabetes. Additive to this is poor compliance with medications and diet. These and potential associated comorbidities due to other chronic conditions are part of the dynamic dynamite mixture.

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'Children under the age of 5 carry higher levels of Covid-19'

Agencies
August 2,2020

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Washington, Aug 2: Children under the age of five have between 10 to 100 times greater levels of genetic material of the coronavirus in their noses compared to older children and adults, a study in JAMA Pediatrics said Thursday.

Its authors wrote this meant that young children might be important drivers of Covid-19 transmission within communities -- a suggestion at odds with the current prevailing narrative.

The paper comes as the administration of US President Donald Trump is pushing hard for schools and daycare to reopen in order to kickstart the economy.

Between March 23 and April 27, researchers carried out nasal swab tests on 145 Chicago patients with mild to moderate illness within one week of symptom onset.

The patients were divided into three groups: 46 children younger than five-years-old, 51 children aged five to 17 years, and 48 adults aged 18 to 65 years.

The team, led by Dr Taylor Heald-Sargent of the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital, observed, "a 10-fold to 100-fold greater amount of SARS-CoV-2 in the upper respiratory tract of young children."

15 countries with the highest number of cases, deaths due to the Covid-19 pandemic

The authors added that a recent lab study had demonstrated that the more viral genetic material was present, the more infectious virus could be grown.

It has also previously been shown that children with high viral loads of the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are more likely to spread the disease.

"Thus, young children can potentially be important drivers of SARS-CoV-2 spread in the general population," the authors wrote.

"Behavioral habits of young children and close quarters in school and daycare settings raise concern for SARS-CoV-2 amplification in this population as public health restrictions are eased," they concluded.

The new findings are at odds with the current view among health authorities that young children -- who, it has been well established, are far less likely to fall seriously ill from the virus -- don't spread it much to others either.

However, there has been fairly little research on the topic so far.

One recent study in South Korea found children aged 10 to 19 transmitted Covid-19 within households as much as adults, but children under nine transmitted the virus at lower rates.

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COVID-19 | Govt warns against use of N-95 masks with valved respirators

Agencies
July 21,2020

New Delhi, Jul 21: The Centre has written to all states and union territories warning against the use of N-95 masks with valved respirators by people, saying these do not prevent the virus from spreading out and are "detrimental" to the measures adopted for its containment.

The Director General of Health Services (DGHS) in the Ministry of Health, in a letter to the Principal Secretaries of health and medical education of states, said it has been observed that there is "inappropriate use" of N-95 masks, particularly those with valved respirators, by the public other than designated health workers.

The DGHS referred to the advisory on the use of homemade protective cover for face and mouth available on the website of the Ministry of Health.

"It is to bring to your knowledge that the use of valved respirator N-95 masks is detrimental to the measures adopted for preventing the spread of coronavirus as it does not prevent the virus from escaping out of the mask. In view of the above, I request you to instruct all concerned to follow the use of face/mouth cover and prevent inappropriate use of N-95 masks," DGHS Rajiv Garg said in the letter.

The government had in April issued an advisory on the use of homemade protective cover for face and mouth, asking people to wear it, particularly when they step out of their residences.

The advisory stressed such face covers must be washed and cleaned each day, as instructed, and stated that any used cotton cloth can be used to make this face cover.

The colour of the fabric does not matter but one must ensure that the fabric is washed well in boiling water for five minutes and dried well before making the face cover. Adding salt to this water is recommended, it said.

It also listed the procedures of making such homemade masks, asking to ensure it fits the face well and there are no gaps on the sides.

It urges people to wash hands thoroughly before wearing the face cover, switching to another fresh one as the face cover becomes damp or humid, and never reusing it after single use without cleaning it.

"Never share the face cover with anyone. Every member in a family should have separate face cover," the advisory stated.

India's COVID-19 case tally crossed the 11-lakh mark on Monday, while the total number of recovered patients increased to over seven lakh, according to Union health ministry data.

The death toll due to the disease rose to 27,497 with 681 fatalities reported in one day.

The ministry data updated at 8 am on Monday showed that a record single-day jump of 40,425 COVID-19 cases had taken the total number of cases to 11,18,043.

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Physical stress on the job linked with brain, memory decline in older age: Study

Agencies
July 24,2020

Colorado, Jul 24: A new study has found that physical stress in one's job may be associated with faster brain ageing and poorer memory.

Aga Burzynska, an assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, and her research team connected occupational survey responses with brain-imaging data from 99 cognitively normal older adults, age 60 to 79. They found that those who reported high levels of physical stress in their most recent job had smaller volumes in the hippocampus and performed poorer on memory tasks. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is critical for memory and is affected in both normal ageing and in dementia.

Their findings were published this summer in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience under the research topic 'Work and Brain Health Across the Lifespan.'

"We know that stress can accelerate physical ageing and is the risk factor for many chronic illnesses," Burzynska said. "But this is the first evidence that occupational stress can accelerate brain and cognitive ageing."

She added that it is important to understand how occupational exposures affect the ageing of our brains.

"An average American worker spends more than eight hours at work per weekday, and most people remain in the workforce for over 40 years," Burzynska said. "By pure volume, occupational exposures outweigh the time we spend on leisure social, cognitive and physical activities, which protect our ageing minds and brains."

Physical demands at work

Burzynska explained that the association between "physical stress" and brain/memory were driven by physical demands at work. These included excessive reaching, or lifting boxes onto shelves, not necessarily aerobic activity. This is important because earlier work by Burzynska and her colleagues showed that leisure aerobic exercise is beneficial for brain health and cognition, from children to very old adults. Therefore, the researchers controlled for the effects of leisure physical activity and exercise.

As expected, leisure physical activity was associated with greater hippocampal volume, but the negative association with physical demands at work persisted.

"This finding suggests that physical demands at work may have parallel yet opposing associations with brain health," Burzynska explained. "Most interventions for postponing cognitive decline focus on leisure, not on your job. It's kind of unknown territory, but maybe future research can help us make some tweaks to our work environment for long-term cognitive health."

She added that the results could have important implications for society.

"Caring for people with cognitive impairment is so costly, on economic, emotional and societal levels," Burzynska said. "If we can support brain health earlier, in middle-aged workers, it could have an enormous impact."

The researchers considered and corrected for several other factors that could be related to work environment, memory and hippocampus, such as age, gender, brain size, educational level, job title, years in the occupation and general psychological stress.

One piece of the puzzle

"The research on this topic is so fragmented," Burzynska said. "One previous study linked mid-life managerial experience with greater hippocampus volume in older age. Another showed that taxi drivers had larger hippocampi than a city's bus drivers, presumably due to the need to navigate. In our study, job complexity and psychological stress at work were not related to hippocampal volume and cognition. Clearly, our study is just one piece of the puzzle, and further research is needed."

The magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data used for the study was collected at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign between 2011 and 2014.

CSU researchers now can collect MRI data with the new 3T scanner at the University's Translational Medicine Institute.

With this new capability, Burzynska, along with Michael Thomas and Lorann Stallones of CSU's Department of Psychology, is launching a new project, "Impact of Occupational Exposures and Hazards on Brain and Cognitive Health Among Aging Agricultural Workers," which will involve collecting MRI brain scans and identifying risk and protective factors that could help the agricultural community age successfully. The project recently obtained funding as an Emerging Issues Short-Term Project from the High Plains Intermountain Center for Agricultural Health and Safety.

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies is part of CSU's College of Health and Human Sciences.

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