The true disability cost of the COVID-19 pandemic is still unknown, but more and more studies are adding to the list of potential fallout from even mild COVID 19 infection.
In this episode of Coronapod we discuss a massive association study which links COVID-19 cases with an increase in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. We delve into the numbers to ask how big the risk might be? Whether any casual relationship can be drawn from this association? And what might be in store from future research into COVID and chronic disease?
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are characterized by increased blood glucose levels. They affect almost half a billion people around the globe, and this number is projected to rise as we reach the middle of the century. In most individuals, blood glucose levels are kept within a healthy range by a hormone called insulin, which is secreted by the pancreas, but this fine-tuned regulation can go wrong in type 1 and type 2 diabetes. In this animation, we lay out our current understanding of these diseases and explore active areas of research that aim to restore the body’s blood glucose control.
The genius aspergillus is a Fungus extremely common throughout the world. It is in the air almost everywhere, and it’s estimated that most people breathe hundreds of Aspergillus spores into their lungs daily. It affects almost exclusively people with compromised immune systems or with underlying respiratory illness.
COMPROMISED IMMUNITY is often present in people with diabetes, obesity and malnutrition, The very young and very old, Viral infections, particularly AIDS and Covid, cancer, autoimmune diseases, organ transplants, and the list goes on. With the advances in medicine in the past few decades, people are being kept alive longer, often by suppressing their own immunity.
UNDERLYING REPIRATORY ILLNESS is disease such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, sarcoidosis, tuberculosis and COPD.
When I was in an allergy practice, we were always on the alert for allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis in asthmatics who were difficult to control. ABPA at that time was reported mainly in England, which is unsurprising due to the wet British climate: fungi grow especially well where is wet.
Another unusual phenomenon is the Aspergillus fungus ball in the lungs, which is sometimes discovered only by chest x-ray. That such a dense mass of fungi could be tolerated in the lungs without invading the body is a tribute to the immune system‘s efficacy.
Galactomannan is in the cell wall of aspergillus, and can be used as a diagnostic test. PCR can also be used, shades of COVID-19. Of course x-ray, or microscopic study of tissues are also often used.
It is estimated that aspergillosis accounts for around 600,000 deaths annually. Africa, with its large number of AIDS patients, contributes heavily to this. It’s difficult to know how common it is in the United States, because aspergillus is not a reportable illness. Please check with the following mayo clinic article for more information.
Fungi are in the outside air, the inside air, and even the air of isolation units In hospitals. The normal human respiratory tract is able to breathe these fungi in, have them deposited on the mucous membrane surfaces and have no problem. The normal respiratory membranes, with their associated cleansing cilia and normal mucus production are able to sweep the invaders out without sustaining any harm.
Problems arise when the respiratory tract is functionally or structurally abnormal, such as in cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis and COPD. Immunocompromised conditions have been increasing in frequency with the improvement in medical care in recent years. Intravascular catheters and sensors can provide a resting place for pathogens including fungi, as can cavities, scars and other damage to the lung. The immune system may require suppression to accommodate an organ transplants or ameliorate autoimmune conditions.
Cancers, especially of the hematologic or lymphatic system, such as lymphomas, pose a definite problem. Severe burns and malnutrition may weaken the immune system, as may Viral infections, especially AIDS, and more recently COVID-19. More subtle immune problems may arise with diabetes, Obesity, or even a lack of sleep and exercise.
These and other conditions give the fungal infections the OPPORTUNITY to invade the body, and a few dozen of the thousands of species of fungi proceed to do just that. Opportunistic fungi often have special features, depending upon the species. Most prefer the respiratory tract, and if they get in to the bloodstream can go to their favored spots.
Aspergillus, and coccidiomycosis , for instance, prefer the lung. Mucormycosis often involves the sinuses and eyes. Blastomycosis can involve bone. Sporothrix is often found infecting the skin.
Symptoms depend upon the area involved. Of course if it’s a respiratory tract, you have coughing, mucus production, sometimes shortness of breath. With the central nervous system you have headache and confusion. You can see the involvement in the skin.
The number of drugs available to fight fungal infection is fairly limited, and currently involves only three different classes. Many fungi are resistant to one or two of these classes, and can be problematic. However, fungi do not as a rule spread through the air from person to person, and a true epidemic would be unlikely.