TB infected diabetic cases becoming a common trend – WHO finds

DPI, Guyana, Thursday, February 22, 2018

Based on research conducted, it has been found that people with a weak immune system, as a result of chronic diseases such as diabetes are at higher risk of progressing from latent to active Tuberculosis (TB). People with diabetes have a higher risk (two to three times) of contracting TB compared to people without diabetes.

Latent TB means a patient is infected with Mycobacterium TB. The identification and treatment of patients with latent TB is an important part of controlling this disease. However, if the TB bacteria become active in the body and multiply, the patient will progress to a case of latent TB infection rendering them sick with TB disease.

The link between diabetes and TB suggest that the former triples a person’s risk of developing TB. About 15% of TB cases globally may be linked to diabetes. TB can temporarily cause impaired glucose tolerance which is a risk factor for developing diabetes.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has indicated that it is likely that a person with TB will die or relapse if the person also has diabetes. A large proportion of people diagnosed with diabetes as well as TB are not diagnosed soon enough or are diagnosed too late.

Early detection can help improve care and treatment outcomes for both diseases. Those diagnosed with TB should be systematically screened for diabetes. Systematic screening for TB in people with diabetes should be considered in settings with high TB prevalence. WHO-recommended treatments should be rigorously implemented for people with TB/diabetes.

It is important that proper care for diabetes is provided to minimize the risk of TB in any country.  Diabetes prevention on population-level also helps prevent TB. WHO recommends a well collaborated national or joint response is needed to ensure coordinated clinical management is recognized to key deficiencies in a country’s health system.

The Collaborative Framework for care and control of TB and diabetes implemented by WHO has sparked actions on several fronts to address the growing trend. It has stimulated pilot projects, national policy dialogue, and new research. In May 2014, the World Health Assembly endorsed WHO’s new ‘End TB Strategy’ which incorporates all essential elements of TB and diabetes collaborative activities.

Additionally, the WHO Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) Global Action Plan 2013–2020 aims to reduce the impact of diabetes. The new Sustainable Development Goals also place the spotlight on ending TB as well as reducing premature mortality from NCDs, which includes diabetes, by one third.

The National Tuberculosis programme in Guyana started screening TB patients for diabetes since 2010. In that year, seven percent of new TB patients were found to be diabetics while there was 4.8 percent in 2014. TB patients with diabetes are placed on WHO’s recommended treatment like all other categories of TB patients.


By: Delicia Haynes


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