Metformin, a diabetes drug, could also have an effect against the coronavirus

Metformin, a diabetes drug, could also have an effect against the coronavirus

An extensive analysis in The Lancet Healthy Longevity indicates that in women taking metformin, a treatment for type 2 diabetes, is strongly linked to a reduced risk of death from Covid-19. But it doesn't apply to men

(photo: Steve Buissinne via Pixabay) A drug used to treat type 2 diabetes, metformin, could also have an effect against the coronavirus. A large statistical study, in fact, conducted by the University of Minnesota Medical School and by researchers from the UnitedHealth Group found a strong association between the intake of metformin by female, obese or diabetic patients and hospitalized for Covid-19 , and a reduction in the percentage of deaths from the disease triggered by the coronavirus. The research has linked the two elements only at a statistical level and does not identify a cause and effect link between drug and reduced mortality. However, this statistical connection needs to be investigated to understand what possible mechanisms or processes underlie it. The results are published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity.

Obesity and coronavirus are linked

The researchers analyzed the data of more than 6 thousand people, hospitalized for coronavirus, who were taking metformin for the management of type 2 diabetes or obesity. Metformin is a medicine used in diabetes 2, when diet and exercise are not enough to keep blood glucose levels under control, but in some cases also in patients with obesity or overweight to help lose weight and maintain it. Researchers have studied the link between obesity and coronavirus: we know that diabetes and obesity, which are the expression of chronic inflammation states, represent important risk factors with respect to the development of more serious forms of Covid-19. In the analysis, the authors took into account these factors and all elements (including therapies) that were associated with an increase or decrease in the risk of death.

Lower mortality, but only among women

From the analysis of the data it emerges that hospitalized women who had taken metformin for at least 90 days, within the 12 months prior to the coronavirus diagnosis, had a reduced probability of death by a percentage from 21 24% compared to that of patients who had not received this therapy. However, among men this reduction in mortality has not been detected, a fact that will have to be better understood.

“Observational studies [in which researchers limit themselves to observing a phenomenon and do not intervene or place conditions, ed. ] like this cannot be conclusive ”, comments Carolyn Bramante, first signature of the publication in the Lancet,“ but they help to create evidence to substantiate the argument. The finding of greater protection in women may signal that the reduction of inflammation obtained through metformin is a key mechanism by which the drug reduces the risks of Covid-19. In any case, further investigation is necessary ".

Metformin, the mechanisms

The mechanism considered by the authors concerns the fact that metformin, which lowers blood sugar, also reduces the production of molecules that promote inflammation (cytokines), the same ones also involved in Covid-19 infection, the excess of which - the so-called cytokine cascade - is an important process underlying serious complications. It is also known that metformin can have different effects in women and men, in particular an immunomodulatory action on the immune system which depends on sex and this could explain some of the reasons behind the observed data.

Researchers caution and the result does not indicate in any way to take or prescribe metformin in women with the coronavirus, however it is important to carry out further research and find new weapons that can complement the therapies already in use, pending a cure.

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