Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 as a potential cause of type 1 diabetes facilitated by spike protein receptor binding domain attachment to human islet cells: An illustrative case study and experimental data

Nisha Venkatesh, Natalie Astbury, Merlin C. Thomas, Carlos J. Rosado, Evan Pappas, Balasubramanian Krishnamurthy, Richard J. MacIsaac, Thomas W.H. Kay, Helen E. Thomas, David N. O'Neal

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: Aim of this study is to report severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection, responsible for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), as a possible cause for type 1 diabetes by providing an illustrative clinical case of a man aged 45 years presenting with antibody-negative diabetic ketoacidosis post-recovery from COVID-19 pneumonia and to explore the potential for SARS-CoV-2 to adhere to human islet cells. Methods: Explanted human islet cells from three independent solid organ donors were incubated with the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein receptor biding domain (RBD) fused to a green fluorescent protein (GFP) or a control-GFP, with differential adherence established by flow cytometry. Results: Flow cytometry revealed dose-dependent specific binding of RBD-GFP to islet cells when compared to control-GFP. Conclusions: Although a causal basis remains to be established, our case and in vitro data highlight a potential mechanism by which SARS-CoV-2 infection may result in antibody-negative type 1 diabetes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14608
Number of pages6
JournalDiabetic Medicine
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


  • COVID-19
  • critical care
  • diabetic ketoacidosis
  • islets of Langerhans
  • pneumonia
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • type 1 diabetes

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