Risks of and From SARS-CoV-2 Infection and COVID-19 in People With Diabetes: A Systematic Review of Reviews


This review was commissioned by the World Health Organization and presents a summary of the latest research evidence on the impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on people with diabetes (PWD).


To review the evidence regarding the extent to which PWD are at increased risk of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection and/or of suffering its complications, including associated mortality.


We searched the Cochrane COVID-19 Study Register, Embase, MEDLINE, and LitCOVID on 3 December 2020.


Systematic reviews synthesizing data on PWD exposed to SARS-CoV-2 infection, reporting data on confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, admission to hospital and/or to intensive care unit (ICU) with COVID-19, and death with COVID-19 were used.


One reviewer appraised and extracted data; data were checked by a second.


Data from 112 systematic reviews were narratively synthesized and displayed using effect direction plots. Reviews provided consistent evidence that diabetes is a risk factor for severe disease and death from COVID-19. Fewer data were available on ICU admission, but where available, these data also signaled increased risk. Within PWD, higher blood glucose levels both prior to and during COVID-19 illness were associated with worse COVID-19 outcomes. Type 1 diabetes was associated with worse outcomes than type 2 diabetes. There were no appropriate data for discerning whether diabetes was a risk factor for acquiring SARS-CoV-2 infection.


Due to the nature of the review questions, the majority of data contributing to included reviews come from retrospective observational studies. Reviews varied in the extent to which they assessed risk of bias.


There are no data on whether diabetes predisposes to infection with SARS-CoV-2. Data consistently show that diabetes increases risk of severe COVID-19. As both diabetes and worse COVID-19 outcomes are associated with socioeconomic disadvantage, their intersection warrants particular attention.