diabetes and tuberculosis

In a recent study, researchers investigate whether there is an association between poorly controlled diabetes and tuberculosis.

For centuries, healthcare providers have recognized that there is an association between diabetes and tuberculosis. In fact, patients with diabetes are considered to have a higher potential risk of developing tuberculosis (TB). The reason for this being that diabetes, especially poorly controlled diabetes, increases a patient’s susceptibility to infections by decreasing their immunity.

A recent study highlighted in the British Medical Journal which included 4,215 people from the U.S. with undiagnosed diabetes, found that these patients were 2.2 times more likely to have latent TB than people without diabetes. Latent TB refers to the dormant form of the infection which can later become active. This issue is a concerning one as diabetes is steadily increasing especially in areas such as Asia where cases of TB is very much still present in high numbers.

In light of these results, the authors of this study have suggested that patients with poorly controlled diabetes should be screened for latent TB. This would be a method of targeting a group that has a high risk of latent TB, which would allow for the control over minimising transmission and maximising preventative treatment.

The results of this research were presented at the 48th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Guadalajara, Mexico, and one of the lead researchers, Leonardo Martinez from Stanford University School of Medicine in California, told the BMJ, “We’re seeing diabetic patients with an increased risk of active TB—which may be due to the fact they have more latent infection. Screening for TB infection and trying to prevent disease, rather than waiting, makes sense.” Martinez also explained that preventative therapy would only be cost-effective in areas of low burden.

This important study will be published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. The results, showing an association between diabetes and tuberculosis, suggest that screening of diabetes patients would be an important tool in TB prevention.

Written by Jade Marie Evans, MPharm, Medical Writer


(1) Cousins S. (2017). Diabetic patients with poor glycaemic control have higher risk of latent TB, study shows. Available: http://www.bmj.com/content/359/bmj.j4767. Last accessed 26th Oct 2017.
(2) Fisher-Hoch S et al. (2008). Type 2 diabetes and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. Scandinavian Journal of Infectious Diseases. 40 (11-12), 888-893.

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