Diabetes, infection risk and COVID-19

Suheda Erener


Individuals with diabetes are at a greater risk of hospitalization and mortality resulting from viral, bacterial, and fungal infections. The coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19), caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), has spread quickly to more than 213 countries and claimed 395,779 lives as of June 7, 2020. Notably, in several studies, diabetes is one of the most reported comorbidities in patients with severe COVID-19.

Scope of review

In this review, I summarize the clinical data on the risk for infectious diseases in individuals with diabetes while highlighting the mechanisms for altered immune regulation. The focus is on coronaviruses. Based on the new clinical data obtained from COVID-19 patients, a discussion of mechanisms, such as cytokine storm, pulmonary and endothelial dysfunction, and hypercoagulation, that may render individuals with diabetes more vulnerable to COVID-19 is provided.

Major conclusions

Epidemiological studies show that poorly controlled diabetes is a risk factor for various infectious diseases. Given the global burden of diabetes and the pandemic nature of coronaviruses, understanding how diabetes affects COVID-19 severity is critical to designing tailored treatments and clinical management of individuals affected by diabetes.