Dexamethasone could be less effective in COVID-19 patients with diabetes

Posted at 1:48 PM, Oct 23, 2020

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - At the ripe age of 74, scientist Wladek Minor, PhD. is not slowing down anytime soon, especially when it comes to his research to better understand COVID-19.

“This is the biggest danger I’ve seen in my lifetime,” said Minor. “This is a real danger, and we shouldn’t underestimate it.”

Minor, who is also a professor at UVA’s Department of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics, recently made a new discovery in the fight against coronavirus.

As the lead researcher, Minor and his team of scientists recently discovered a link between a coronavirus treatment and people with diabetes.

They found the drug dexamethasone, which is used to lower the risk of death in patients with a severe case of the virus, might be less effective for treating patients with diabetes.

“We were trying to explain why the action of dexamethasone is somewhat erratic,” Minor said. “It means it works for some people and [does] not necessarily work for other people.”

Minor and his team analyzed data from 373 COVID-19 patients at a hospital from Wuhan, China.

Their research determined how a type of protein in our blood, called serum albumin, picks up dexamethasone and carries it through the body.

The scientists found that patients who died had lower levels of that protein than those who survived.

Those who died also had higher levels of blood sugar, suggesting diabetes may make it difficult for patients to get the benefits of the drug.

“We are trying to make as much impact on human life as possible,” said Minor.

Dexamethasone has been shown to cut deaths by about 30% for COVID-19 patients who were on ventilators.

The steroid was used to help treat President Donald Trump’s bout with the virus, along with other treatments and drugs including remdesivir, which was just approved by the FDA to use on all hospitalized patients.

“COVID is now our enemy, and really, it’s the biggest enemy,” Minor said.

Scientists said more research is needed to determine the best treatment for COVID-19 patients, especially for those who have diabetes.

For more information on Minor’s research, click here.

This story was first reported by Antoinette DelBel at WTKR in Norfolk, Virginia.