Type 2 diabetes patients may be more likely to contract tuberculosis

Individuals with type 2 diabetes are already known to be at an increased risk of several other diseases, including heart disease, kidney failure and neuropathy. Now, a new study from researchers at the University of Texas has found that they may also be more likely to acquire tuberculosis (TB).

After surveying the medical records of 233 TB patients who lived in Mexico and Texas along the border, the researchers reported in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization that 25 percent of the cases were attributable to type 2 diabetes. They said their results show that diabetics are between five and seven times more likely to contract TB.

Despite its diminishing presence in the developed world, TB remains the leading bacterial cause of death. Extensive efforts have been launched to completely eradicate the disease, but the World Health Organization says that rising rates of type 2 diabetes are working against these efforts.

The study indicated that rates of type 2 diabetes and TB are significantly higher among Hispanic populations. The fact that these individuals are generally medically underserved may contribute to the high prevalence of both diseases. However, this pattern may also help public health officials know where to look for new cases of TB.

The researchers said that their findings indicate that doctors who serve at-risk populations should consider screening for both diseases on a regular basis. This may be particularly important among individuals who they diagnose with one of the two diseases. More TB and type 2 diabetes testing may lead to lower disease rates and help affected individuals live healthier lives.

"TB clinics can reach out to a population that is medically underserved and provide new [type 2] diabetes diagnosis to this population," Blanca Restrepo, PhD, the lead researcher on the study.