About 2.3 million South Africans may be living with diabetes and many of these people may not even know it, according to the International Diabetes Federation.
According to the federation’s 2015 atlas, nearly half Africa’s diabetes patients are found in just four countries – South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Ethiopia. The federation estimates that two-thirds of diabetes patients in Africa are undiagnosed.
In South Africa the lack of early diagnosis of diabetes is exacerbated by poor screening services, and most people are diagnosed only once they develop complications from the disease, which affects how the body uses blood sugar or glucose and triples a person’s risk of developing active TB disease.
The condition may also affect TB treatment outcomes, Ronacher warns.
“Not only are people with diabetes more likely to get TB, they are also less likely to respond to treatment which can lead to relapse or even death,” Ronacher tells Health-e News.
One reason for poorer treatment outcomes in co-infected patients is that people with diabetes have lower levels of TB medication in their blood. According to Ronacher, researchers are currently unsure about what causes this and if it is due to the interaction between the two diseases, or because people with diabetes generally have a higher body mass index and medication is not being dosed adjusted to account for this.
Ronacher has recently been awarded a R25-million grant by the American National Institutes of Health to explore how TB/diabetes co-infection may change transmission patterns within homes. Ronacher and her team of researchers will also be exploring whether poorly managed diabetics have an increased risk of developing active TB as compared to diabetics who are better able to manage their medication and blood sugar levels. – Health-e News.
This piece was contributed by Thato Motlhokodi. Motlhokodi is a journalism graduate on a National Research Foundation fellowship with Stellenbosch University’s Department of Biomedical Sciences.