An intensive study done here at the US-Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas has revealed a strong link between diabetes and tuberculosis (TB). In May of 2011, researchers lead by Blanca I. Restrepo at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) made public that they were able to prove a strong relationship between the two diseases.

Diabetes is a disease that involves the body’s inability to properly handle blood glucose, the body’s source of energy and the brain’s main source of fuel. Too much glucose in the blood indicates that not enough glucose is entering the cells and, therefore, the cells are being deprived of energy. It is believed that one of the effects of diabetes is that it plays an active role in depressing the immune system.

Tuberculosis is a potentially serious bacterial infection, especially if left untreated, that primarily affects the lungs, but that can also affect the kidneys, spine and brain, and is spread through airborne residue from a cough, sneeze, laugh, etc. In fact, untreated TB is so serious that it kills more people in the world than any other bacterial disease.

The influence that diabetes has on the likelihood of contracting TB is incredible. Research published in the May 2011 issue of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization shows that diabetics have a three to five times higher risk of contracting TB than non-diabetics, presumably due to the depressed immunity that is encouraged by diabetes. Because of this strong relationship between diabetes and TB and the fact that TB and diabetes are increasingly found coexisting (at least among the Hispanic population), it is important that medical personnel and patients are aware of the relationship and are proactive when a patient is diagnosed with either TB or diabetes. That is to say that if TB is diagnosed, it should be determined if diabetes is also present, and if diabetes is diagnosed, then precautions against TB should be taken.

Using one disease to help identify or ward off another is beneficial in that it helps to detect and manage both diseases, especially when one may influence the other. For example, if a newly diagnosed TB patient is screened for diabetes and it is found that diabetes is present, the patient can now be treated for diabetes, adding quality and, perhaps, longevity to his life. In reverse, diabetic patients now have a leg up on preventing a TB infection, simply because the positive connection between TB and diabetes has been made. Proof of the correlation lies in the fact that the UTHealth study concluded that about 65% of the TB cases in South Texas was attributable to diabetes.

Be knowledgeable about your health and share that knowledge with others. Being proactive is a key to living a healthier life.

The complete report can be found at

http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/89/5/10-085738/en/index.html.

By Lora Incardona