They recommend hospitals introduce blood glucose level screening when patients are admitted with coronavirus symptoms.
Naveed Sattar, Professor of Metabolic Medicine, University of Glasgow, not involved in the study, said the reports findings are in line with expectations.
“We know, for example, that those with higher blood sugar levels will have more severe disease, because more severe disease will stress metabolic pathways more, leading sugar levels to rise in the sickest patients,” Sattar said.
How did the researchers gather their findings?
The Chinese team looked at fasting blood glucose levels at admission from January 24, 2020 to February 10, 2020 in two hospitals in Wuhan, China.
They also examined demographic and clinical data, 28-day outcomes, in-hospital complications and the severity of pneumonia in patients with the condition.
A total of 605 COVID-19 patients were covered by the study, including 114 who died in hospital – with an average age of 59 years.
Thirty-four percent had one or more underlying conditions, but had not been diagnosed with diabetes, with high blood pressure being the most common.
Almost one third of patients had blood sugar levels so high that if they were constantly at that level they would be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
The results showed that patients in the highest blood sugar level group were 2.3 times more likely to die than those in the lowest, a statistically significant result.
Those in the middle group were 71 percent more likely to die than those in the lowest group, although this result only had borderline statistical significance.
The data also showed that men admitted with higher blood sugar levels were 75 percent more likely to die than women with similar levels.
According to the NHS, other high-level risk factors for coronavirus include:
- Have had an organ transplant
- Are having chemotherapy or antibody treatment for cancer, including immunotherapy
- Are having an intense course of radiotherapy (radical radiotherapy) for lung cancer
- Are having targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system (such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors)
- Have blood or bone marrow cancer (such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma)
- Have had a bone marrow or stem cell transplant in the past 6 months, or are still taking immunosuppressant medicine
- Have been told by a doctor they have a severe lung condition (such as cystic fibrosis, severe asthma or severe COPD)
- have a condition that means they have a very high risk of getting infections (such as SCID or sickle cell)
- Are taking medicine that makes them much more likely to get infections (such as high doses of steroids or immunosuppressant medicine)
- Have a serious heart condition and are pregnant