Study finds diabetics have higher risk of tuberculosis infection

A University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston study has found that diabetics have a three to five times higher risk of tuberculosis than non-diabetics.

The study included 233 patients who live with TB in Texas and along the border of Mexico. Researchers found that 25 percent of TB cases were attributed to the presence of diabetes while in contrast, only 6 percent of the cases were due to HIV, reports Health Canal.

“With the increase in diabetes patients in TB-endemic areas, our findings highlight the re-emerging impact of diabetes mellitus, known as type 2, on TB control in regions of the world where both diseases are prevalent,” Blanca Restrepo, lead investigator and associate professor of epidemiology at The University of Texas School of Public Health Brownsville Regional Campus, said. “There is a need to focus on identifying the opportunities to prevent TB in diabetes patients.”

There were 9 million new cases of TB in 2009 with 1.7 million people dying from the disease. Research suggests that diabetes, which is anticipated to reach 438 million by 2030, suppresses the immune response which facilitates infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

“Physicians should be screening at-risk diabetic patients for TB and patients should be aware of their diabetes status,” Restrepo said, “Opportunities are being missed for patients and physicians to work together to manage both diseases.”

“This research confirms results from several other studies showing an increased risk of TB in people with diabetes and means that it is important that clinicians actively seek to diagnose diabetes in people with TB, and vice versa,” Knut Lonnroth, medical officer in the Stop TB Department at the World Health Organization, said. “WHO and several partner organizations are in the process of finalizing a Collaborative Framework for Care and Control of Tuberculosis and Diabetes, which will guide countries on how to prepare health services for coordinated management and prevention, especially countries with high burden of both diseases.”

Restrepo said the study has implications in countries with high prevalence of both diseases, such as  Brazil, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, India and Bangladesh. The study participants were new TB cases diagnosed between March 2006 and September 2008 in Hidalgo, Texas and clinics in Matamoros, Mexico. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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