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People with diabetes were almost twice as likely to die from COVID-19 and nearly three times as likely to be critically or severely ill compared to those without the disease, according to a study. The researchers from the University of Aberdeen in the UK reviewed data from hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world, and found that good management of the disease can mitigate the risks.
The team, including researchers from King's College, London, found that while diabetes presents a significant risk of severe illness and death with COVID-19, good control of blood sugar in these patients can significantly reduce this risk.
The researchers reviewed findings from 158 studies that included more than 270,000 participants from all over the world to determine how COVID-19 affects people living with diabetes.
The pooled results showed that people with diabetes were 1.87 times more likely to die from COVID-19, and 1.59 times more likely to be admitted to ICU, according to the researchers.
They were also 1.44 times more likely to require ventilation, and 2.88 times more likely to be classed as severe or critical, when compared to patients without diabetes, they said.
The study, published in the journal Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, looked at the risks of COVID-19 in patients with diabetes while factoring in the patients' location and thereby highlighting potential healthcare resources available as well as possible ethnic differences and other societal factors.
Data was gathered from all over the world including China, Korea, US, Europe and the Middle East.
The researchers found that patients in China, Korea and the Middle East were at higher risk of death than those from EU countries or the US.
They suggest this may be due to differences in healthcare systems and affordability of healthcare which may explain the finding that maintaining optimal glycaemic control, significantly reduces adverse outcomes in patients with diabetes and COVID-19.
"We found that following a COVID-19 infection, the risk of death for patients with diabetes was significantly increased in comparison to patients without diabetes," Stavroula Kastora, who worked on the study, explained.
"Equally, collective data from studies around the globe suggested that patients with diabetes had a significantly higher risk of requiring an intensive care admission and supplementary oxygen or being admitted in a critical condition in comparison to patients without diabetes," said Kastora.
However, the researchers, including Professors Mirela Delibegovic and Phyo Myint, found that the studies that reported patient data from the EU or US displayed less extreme differences between the patient groups.
"Ultimately, we have identified a disparity in COVID-19 outcomes between the eastern and western world. We also show that good glycaemic control may be a protective factor in view of COVID-19 related deaths," said Kastora.
"In light of the ongoing pandemic, strengthening outpatient diabetes clinics, ensuring consistent follow up of patients with diabetes and optimising their glycaemic control could significantly increase the chances of survival following a COVID-19 infection," the researcher added.
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