A new study has found that people with type 2 diabetes who are infected with COVID-19 and have uncontrolled blood glucose levels are nearly 50% more likely to wind up in an intensive care unit (ICU), according to Science Daily.

The study looked at several potential impacts of COVID-19 severity among people with type 2 diabetes and calculated the risk for patients using diabetes drug metformin, or a combination of metformin and insulin, or corticosteroids.

Dr. Deepak Vashishth, Director of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Center for Biotechnology & Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS), said “We find that two- to three-year longitudinal glycemic levels better indicate the risk of COVID-19 severity than measurements which look at a shorter period of time.”

“We hope these insights aid physicians in better treating and managing high-risk patients,” added Dr. Vashishth, who is the corresponding author of the study.

The study, published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, looked at records of more than 16,000 people with type 2 diabetes and COVID-19 from 2017 to 2020.

Typically, patients with type 2 diabetes are unable to regulate the amount of glucose in their bloodstream without medication and managing their diet. Uncontrolled high blood sugar levels can damage various systems of the body, including the circulatory, nervous, kidneys, and immune systems.

Poor blood sugar control causes a reaction that results in molecules called advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). These molecules accumulate and deteriorate the quality of bone over time. AGEs are also known to cause increased oxidant stress and inflammation, which are risk factors in COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.

The study’s first author Dr. Bowen Wang said the team reasoned that the same longitudinal glycemic control measurement they were testing as a predictor of bone fracture risk might be useful in predicting the severity of COVID-19, according to Science Daily.

Upon their analysis, the researcher found that people with poor blood sugar control were 48% more likely to require treatment in ICU. In addition, they found that diabetics who were taking metformin when they were infected with COVID-19 had a 12% lower risk of visiting ICU.

Furthermore, the authors found that diabetics on metformin and insulin had an 18% lower risk of visiting ICU and those who were prescribed corticosteroids had a 29% lower risk.

Dr. Wang explained “People knew that diabetes was a risk factor for COVID-19-related outcomes, but not all diabetic patients are the same. Some people have a longer history of diabetes, some have more severe diabetes, and that has to be accounted for.”

“What this study does is to better stratify the level of diabetes within the population, so diabetic patients aren’t treated as a single population without any differences among them,” he added.