From the very first reports of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, patients with diabetes have been shown to have significantly worse outcomes.

“When patients with diabetes contract the SARS-CoV-2 virus, they have a greater likelihood of hospitalization, intubation and even death,” says Elizabeth Seaquist, MD, M Physicians endocrinologist who specializes in treating adult patients with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

That being said, while the outcomes look much worse for those with diabetes, prevention methods are the same for everyone.

“It’s the same as for all of us,” Dr. Seaquist says. “Handwashing, masks, staying six feet apart. Just staying away from people in general.”


Pivoting to Better–– and More Safely–– Care for Patients

Somewhere between six and eight percent of Minnesota residents have diabetes –– the vast majority are Type 2 patients. 

“Many of them don’t want to go to work and they don’t want to go out as a result of their concern for an increased risk of poor outcomes,” Dr. Seaquist says. “So in order to combat that, we have really jumped on the virtual bandwagon. All of our ambulatory groups significantly reduced the number of patients seen in person in March, we have not returned to seeing all of our patients face-to-face and only have them come to clinic if there's a real frank need for us to see them in person.”


Utilizing Research to Learn More About Outcomes

One of the big questions not yet answered is if obesity is the main problem.

“Because we know obesity is another factor for poor outcomes in COVID-19 patients –– and since most Type 2 patients are obese –– it is possible that obesity is the problem,” Dr. Seaquist says. “So, then, does it matter if the patient has Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes? And it’s not quite clear yet, but there is some data that suggests it may be specific to Type 2 diabetes.”

In a similar vein, University of Minnesota Medical School and UnitedHealth Group researchers found that metformin–– an established, generic medication for managing blood sugar levels in patients with Type 2 diabetes–– was associated with significantly reduced COVID-19 death risks in women in one of the world’s largest observational studies of COVID-19 patients. The results of this study provide new directions for research against COVID-19; for patients with and without diabetes.