Global health experts have called for greater efforts to deal with the problem of patients having both diabetes and tuberculosis (TB).
The statement, which calls for co-ordinated testing for both diseases, is made in response to the increasing prevalence of patients with both diseases across the world. There are six countries – China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Pakista, and Russia – in which a large number of diabetes patients are classed as being at high risk of TB.
“There’s evidence that if we treat diabetes and TB, we reduce the risk of these poor outcomes,” said Professor Anthony Harries, from the International Union Against TB and Lung Disease. “In India, for example, there’s a national policy for TB patients to be screened for diabetes. But it’s only been implemented in a couple of southern states.
“The TB world tends to have good monitoring systems – and they are already used to giving people blood tests for HIV.
“Many people with diabetes don’t know they have it, so this is one small way of identifying some of them.
“We have more work to do to persuade diabetes doctors to screen for TB. They don’t always perceive it as a huge issue, because they are more worried about eye problems and gangrene.
“The general situation is better than five years ago, when nothing was being done. But we still need more action. I’m confident and optimistic this will happen.”
Tuberculosis, along with several other lung conditions, is more likely in patients with diabetes – particularly type 1 diabetes. This is because diabetes weakens the immune system, making it less able to deal with infections.
Anders Dejgaard, Managing Director of the World Diabetes Foundatio, echoed the concerns: “Healthcare systems must prepare to deal with this challenge. It is most severe in low and middle-income countries.
“We need to ensure that healthcare professionals are equipped to diagnosed and take care of these two diseases as they increasingly appear together in the same patients.

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