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Diabetes and Tuberculosis: When One Leads to the Other

Tuberculosis, a pervasive disease that has killed 1.5 million people in 2013, will continue to spread with pandemic levels if diabetes continues to soar, health experts warn.

Current research into the field of chronic disease has discovered a link between diabetes and tuberculosis, the former established as being a chronic condition that weakens the immune system, tripling the risk of a person developing TB. And it's something researchers fear will lead the spread of Tuberculosis to new heights affecting diabetic and non-diabetic populations in unprecedented numbers.

Diabetics are more susceptible to catching the bacteria that causes TB due to the fact that their immune systems are compromised by the metabolic disorder, which also gravely affects circulation throughout the system. This could lead to a co-epidemic, as more people face diabetes due to obesity and other causes, health experts explained. Such co-infections could be likened to HIV/AIDS, which disrupts the functioning of the infected person's immune system. In Africa, the HIV/AIDS pandemic triggered TB infection amongst thousands of people.

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The red alert came this week as the World Health Organization, identified the countries projected to have the highest number of diabetics by 2035 as also high TB burden countries. Also these countries are amongst the most highly populated and less economically-developed nations, adding to the risk of non-treatment and high contagion.

These include China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Russia.

Anthony Harries of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease said, "We want to raise an alarm that we don't watch history repeat itself with TB-diabetes," as he expressed concern about the case of China and India where the world's highest TB and diabetes rates are recorded.

International Diabetes Federation reported that diabetes has affected 382 million people in 2013 and will increase to a projected 592 million by 2035.

Most of the cases will be of Type 2 diabetes, which is connected to obesity and sedentary lifestyles.

Anil Kapur of the World Diabetes Foundation says, "If we don't act now to head this off, we're going to experience a co-epidemic of TB-diabetes that will impact millions and sap public health systems of precious resources. The key is to prevent this from happening."

According to Reuters, a joint report from Harries' and Kapur's groups presented at an international lung conference in Barcelona sets out the case for international action against the looming co-epidemic.

"The report challenges the conventional approach of tackling independently infectious diseases and chronic non-communicable diseases," it says.

To fight the threat of tuberculosis, it will be necessary to screen diabetes patients to check for TB and also find out if TB patients have diabetes, since the two are co-epidemic and are equally dangerous and life-threatening.

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