Millions of people around the world with high blood sugar levels might be at higher risks of tuberculosis, a team of experts warned during last week after they presented the new study’s results at a pneumology congress haled in The Hague, Netherlands. In 2017, nearly 10 million people developed tuberculosis, an infectious disease caused by the Koch bacillus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and specialists fear that an explosion in diabetes cases could put millions of more patients at risk of infection.
As part of the study presented last week at a pneumology congress in The Hague, researchers from the London School of Hygiene analyzed the blood samples of people with tuberculosis and diabetes in four countries, Romania, Indonesia, Peru, and South Africa. They then tested the blood of people with tuberculosis and high blood sugar levels who did not reach the threshold of diabetes. They found that the blood samples of these non-diabetic people contained the same molecules as those of patients with both tuberculosis and diabetes.
“This indicates that even before a person develops diabetes, the risk of contracting tuberculosis is higher,” said Ajay Kumar, a researcher at the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.
High Blood Sugar Levels Boosts The Risks of Tuberculosis
The link between Koch bacillus infection and diabetes is well-known, although it’s not yet well understood. Diabetes diminishes the immune system, increasing the risk of tuberculosis. According to the WHO, more than 450 million people worldwide have type 2 diabetes, while one in four people carry the bacteria that cause tuberculosis, an explosive situation, the researchers said.
Paul Jensen, an official of the International Union Against Tuberculosis, said the countries most at risk were those with latent tuberculosis and a sharp increase in diabetes: India, Pakistan, China and several countries in Southeast Asia.
The situation can be described as a “perfect storm,” characterized by “economically developing, already a huge pool of latent tuberculosis infection and here you have this issue with diabetes escalating,” said Paul Jensen.
“If you have tuberculosis and diabetes at the same time, the treatment is even more complicated. You are more likely to get tuberculosis again later and die,” Jensen added.