A new study has found that people with diabetes are at a much higher risk of developing tuberculosis (TB), a contagious but curable disease caused by bacteria that typically attack the lungs.
In a bid to determine the role of diabetes in risk of tuberculosis, treatment results and survival rates, experts from the University of Copenhagen conducted a Tanzania-based study of 1,250 patients newly diagnosed with tuberculosis and 350 controls without tuberculosis between spring 2006 and winter 2009.
The research team tested all of the participants for diabetes and HIV and also followed up on their tuberculosis treatment a year later.
They discovered that 38 per cent of tuberculosis patients had impaired glucose metabolism – a sign of pre-diabetes – compared with 21 per cent of controls, while 17 per cent of tuberculosis patients had either type 1 or type 2 diabetes compared with 9 per cent of controls.
Patients with diabetes were also four times more likely to die while undergoing intensive tuberculosis treatment than those without the metabolic disease .
The results indicate that tuberculosis development is strong linked to the presence of diabetes, and also suggest that diabetes is far more widespread than previously thought.
PhD student and physician Daniel FaurholtJepsen said: “Our studies show, firstly that diabetes is hastily advancing in developing countries, not just in Asia, but in Africa as well. Secondly, as a diabetic one is four times more at risk of developing tuberculosis and five times as likely to die under tuberculosis treatment .”
He added that more than a million people die from tuberculosis every year and warned that due to the growing number of diabetes cases in developing countries, this figure could be “much higher in the future if nothing is done now”.

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