U.Va. Researcher: COVID-19 Drug Appears To Not Work Well For Diabetics

Wladek Minor, Harrison distinguished professor of molecular physiology and biological physics at the University of Virginia. Photo by Dan Addison for U.Va. Communications

A University of Virginia physicist researching a drug that can save severely ill COVID-19 patients’ lives has discovered that it may not work well on diabetics, the U.Va. Health System announced this week. As a result, physicians may need to change the drug regimen for some of their sickest patients.

Dexamethasone, a corticosteroid that was given to President Donald Trump during his recent case of the coronavirus, is carried by a protein in the bloodstream known as serum albumin. For people with lower levels of albumin — including people with diabetes and men with low testosterone — the drug may not be able to attack the virus as effectively. Dexamethasone is prescribed only for patients who are receiving extra oxygen, including those on ventilators.

Lead researcher Wladek Minor, Harrison distinguished professor in the U.Va. Department of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics, worked with a team of biologists, computer scientists and clinicians at the University of South Carolina and in Poland this summer and fall. He says that the connection between dexamethasone, COVID-19 and low albumin levels — determined by studying data from 373 patients at a hospital in Wuhan, China — is just the beginning of the research.


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