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The Link between TB and diabetes

October 28th, 2013 by Mayank

There is a clear link between diabetes and TB. A person who has diabetes is at a much higher risk - almost 2 to 3 times higher of developing TB or Tuberculosis than others. It has also been noted that almost 10% of all Tuberculosis cases are linked with diabetes.

Double burden of the diseases globally

The increasing number of diabetes patients is a huge challenge in controlling TB. In most low and middle income countries such as regions in Asia and Africa where TB is a huge public health issue diabetic cases are increasing fast.

How to Treat and Screen both the diseases?

Diabetes weakens the immune system and affects the metabolic processes of the fat tissues - thereby making the body succumbs to the attack of infectious disease like TB. Study has shown that a patient with diabetes is more prone to fail treatment of TB and also is more likely to die during a treatment. Someone with diabetes who has a good control over the glucose levels are at a lesser risk to get TB. Also the treatment of TB helps to decrease the blood glucose levels in the body.

Studies to prove this

Megan Murray and Christie Jeon from the Harvard School of Public Health have been working on this subject for a while and have used data from the last 40 years to do 13 different detailed studies with more than 1.7 million people participating and 17698 cases of TB. Their in-depth study summarized that Diabetes mellitus greatly increases the risk of developing active tuberculosis.

Recently at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge there was a researcher’s symposium that aimed at sharing thoughts and studies to unravel the linkage. Many eminent speakers (like Melvin J., Sarah Fortune and L. Glimcher) from the Harvard School of Public Health opened by saying that the number one risk of developing Tuberculosis isn’t HIV but diabetes. The aim of this meet was to discuss the development of new age drugs and treatments to cure and control such diseases.

An effort to address this issue

A four year innovation and research project called the TANDEM with the aim to answer a lot of questions between the relationship of these two disease has been launched a few months back (April 2013). It is run by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The idea is to get different disciplinary partners and sites together in Romania, Indonesia, Peru and South Africa with labs in Netherlands, Romania, UK, South Africa and Germany. This project has been setup to find the best way to diagnose TB in diabetic patients and vice versa and also to analyse why some people with both the disease do not respond to treatments and whether genes are related to the linkage between these diseases.

How to manage both the diseases?

In countries like Egypt, Mexico, USA and Saudi Arabia where the number of diabetic cases is higher, diabetes is seen to be a significant contributor to TB case numbers.

Since it is clear that there is link, it becomes very important to manage the diseases effectively, by aiming to detect them in early stages so as to avoid serious complications, offering well guided public treatments and a good drug supply to cure them. These steps will aid in effective detection and treatment of diabetes as was done to globally control TB.

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