New research has shown that high glucose levels could inhibit the ability of the body to detect and fight against bacterial and fungal infections . While diabetics are prone to getting infections, it has not previously been known why they are vulnerable to bacteria .
The study, carried out at the University of Warwick, and which was published in the journal Immunobiology, examined the similarities between the chemical structure of glucose and two other sugars, mannose and fucose, which are found on the surfaces of certain bacteria and fungi. Specialised cells of the immune system typically use these sugars as target sites and attach themselves so they can start to counteract, that is, they indicate the presence of potentially harmful microbes to the immune system.
The research attempted to replicate what happens when the bloodstream becomes overrun with too much glucose. Daniel Mitchell, who led the study, said “When we introduced increased amounts of glucose, we found that the normal binding of an immune receptor starts to fail.” Some immune cells attached themselves to glucose rather than the invaders.
Mitchell added, “It really is just a case of the glucose resembling parts of the bacterial structure. You could use the analogy that the immune cells have become blind, or their ability to sense the pathogens diminishes.”
It is hoped that the study will eventually lead to new treatments that bolster the body’s defences against infections.

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