COVID Hangovers

Two new studies released this week show worrying findings that people have an increased risk of developing a range of health issues after contracting COVID.

German researchers discovered that mild COVID may put people at a higher risk of developing diabetes, and Oxford University found higher rates of rare neurological events such as Bell’s palsy, encephalomyelitis and Guillain-Barré syndrome.

But there is a silver lining – the Oxford research clearly indicates that there is no increased risk of rare neurological events after COVID vaccination.

Following reports that some people developed Guillain-Barré syndrome after receiving the Oxford-AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech covid vaccines (which was then listed as a rare side effect of these vaccines), the team at Oxford examined data from 8.3 million individuals across the UK and Spain who had received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine (Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson) and 735,870 unvaccinated individuals with a positive test result.

“We found no safety signal for any of the studied immune mediated neurological events after vaccination against COVID,” the team reported. “Infection with SARS-CoV-2 was, however, associated with an increased risk of Bell’s palsy, encephalomyelitis, and Guillain-Barré syndrome.”

The German research into diabetes, released on Wednesday in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes), suggests a possible association between mild COVID cases and subsequent diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

Lead author, Professor Wolfgang Rathmann, said that “COVID infection may lead to diabetes by upregulation of the immune system after remission… or patients may have been at risk for developing diabetes due to having obesity or prediabetes, and the stress COVID put on their bodies sped it up.”

The analysis of health records from 1,171 practices across Germany found that adults who recover from mostly mild COVID appear to have a significantly higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than a matched control group who had other types of respiratory infections, which are also frequently caused by viruses.

To provide more evidence the researchers analysed electronic health records from the Disease Analyzer database, which included information on 8.8 million adults who visited 1,171 general and internal medicine practices across Germany between March 2020 and January 2021, including 35,865 patients who were diagnosed with COVID.

The incidence of diabetes after COVID was compared with a cohort of individuals who were diagnosed with an acute upper respiratory tract infection (but not COVID) within the same timeframe and with similar comorbidities.

They found that the relative risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the COVID group was 28 percent higher.

The researchers state that if confirmed, these results indicate that diabetes screening in individuals after recovery from mild forms of COVID should be recommended, with this potential link between COVID and diabetes being investigated in various ongoing studies.

“Since the COVID patients were only followed for about three months, further follow-up is needed to understand whether type 2 diabetes after mild COVID is just temporary and can be reversed after they have fully recovered, or whether it leads to a chronic condition,” Prof Rathmann said.