Categories: Health & Fitness

Covid-19: researchers reveal the unknown effect of the virus on the liver

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If we know better and better the consequences of an infection by the Covid-19 virus on the body and on many organs, scientific research continues to discover more.

As proof, this new scientific study published in the journal PNAS (Source 1)which shows that sars-CoV-2 can infect liver cells and cause diabetes-like conditions.

The researchers describe part of the mechanism used by the virus to infect liver cells and then alter glucose metabolism. As a result, the patient may suffer from hyperglycaemia, even though he was not diabetic before being infected.

Hyperglycemia is a common complication in patients hospitalized with Covid-19, which occurs regardless of their history of diabetes and is associated with a worse clinical outcome”, write the authors, clarifying that the question of whether Sars-CoV-2 directly triggers hyperglycemia has so far been unresolved. “Sars-CoV-2 directly causes hyperglycemia, regardless of corticosteroid use, stress due to hospitalization, body weight and diabetes”, assured Luiz Osório Silveira Leiria, co-author of the study, at the São Paulo Research Foundation (Brazil).

Remember that the liver contributes to normal glycaemia (blood glucose levels) by regulating glucose production, but also by storing glucose in the form of glycogen for later use, if needed.

The study was conducted here with 269 patients in intensive care at Das Clinicas de São Paulo Hospital, and 663 patients admitted with suspicion of Covid-19 to the Center for Intensive Medicine (CEPETI) in Curitiba, Brazil, between March and August 2020. All were subjected to PCR tests, so that the control group was composed of patients with other respiratory pathologies, admitted to intensive care during the same period. “We managed to get an almost perfect control group, with similar symptoms, negative PCR results and the same hospital environment”, said Luiz Leiria.

High blood sugar drug considered

Viral particles were then found in the hepatocytes (main liver cells) of patients positive for Sars-CoV-2. The virus, however, did not cause the death of infected liver cells, but used them to multiply, and then has increased the amount of glucose produced. Observable results regardless of the variant of the virus in question.
The research team then set out to find a drug treatment to avoid this hyperglycemia, which is all the more harmful in people who already had diabetes before the infection. They found a possible candidate: the metformin, a drug already used against high blood sugar in type 2 diabetes, because it inhibits the formation of glucose (glucogenesis) in the liver. Researchers see it as “a potential way to provide additional protection for these patients”.

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