June 6, 2014
by June Greist
Research at Colorado State University has revealed new links between tuberculosis and diabetes, providing evidence that TB becomes more deadly when it occurs with diabetes and showing for the first time that tuberculosis can actually trigger pre-diabetes.
Results of the study by Randall Basaraba, post-doctoral fellow Brendan Podell and their colleagues recently were published in the American Journal of Pathology. The researchers work in CSU’s Metabolism of Infectious Diseases Laboratory and Mycobacteria Research Laboratories.
The results come as the global rate of diabetes is increasing exponentially, particularly in developing countries that already have a high incidence of tuberculosis. TB is an infectious respiratory disease that kills an estimated 1.5 million people worldwide each year.
“Projections for increases in diabetes are astronomical,” said Basaraba, a professor in the CSU Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology. “One-third of the human population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes tuberculosis, so we can expect a dramatic increase in the number of individuals who have both TB and diabetes. There is a merging of two global epidemics that will affect millions of people each year.”
The research team, supported by grants from the American Diabetes Association and the National Institutes of Health, aims to understand the progression of TB in diabetic patients and to test treatments to improve TB and diabetes control when the two diseases occur together.
Through their pioneering study, the CSU researchers discovered a unique tie between TB and diabetes, notably that exposure to Mycobacterium tuberculosis can spur pre-diabetes. This suggests the possibility of using diabetes drugs in conjunction with antibiotics to more effectively treat TB.
The team’s findings also confirmed that TB progresses more rapidly in diabetic subjects, with higher bacterial growth, more inflammation and poorer response to TB drug treatment. Even pre-diabetes increases TB severity, the researchers found.
These initial study results set the stage for a second research phase during which the scientists will explore novel drug treatment strategies that may someday be used to better control diabetes and tuberculosis in patients.