New global health threat

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The spread of tuberculosis worldwide will accelerate hugely unless action is taken to curb diabetes, a chronic condition that weakens the immune system and triples the risk of developing TB, health experts have warned

A woman suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) holds her baby, who suffers from TB and malnutrition
Tuberculosis killed about 1.5million people last year, according to the World Health Organisation. It is caused by bacteria that lie dormant in many people. Such people show no symptoms of the disease.

Diabetics become sick from latent TB infection more often because their immune system is compromised. Diabetes rates soar along with the prevalence of obesity.
It is not the first time that the world has been confronted with such a co-infection problem. The HIV/Aids pandemic, which destroyed the immune systems of millions, led to a jump in TB rates in many countries in Africa.
Now doctors fear a re-run of that scenario as diabetes takes hold in many poorer countries.
The big worry is that six of the 10 countries projected to have the greatest numbers of diabetics by 2035 – China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Russia – are classified as having a high TB burden by the World Health Organisation.
Diabetes affected 382million people last year and the number is expected to increase to 592million by 2035, says the International Diabetes Federation.
Most of the cases will be type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity.
“If we don’t act now to head this off, we’re going to have a co-epidemic of TB and diabetes that will affect millions and sap public health systems of precious resources,” said Anil Kapur, of the World Diabetes Foundation.
Although diabetes is not as great a co-infection threat as HIV, there are about 10 times as many cases of diabetes globally as of HIV.
A report presented at an international lung disease conference in Barcelona, Spain, sets out the case for international action against the looming co-epidemic.
It challenges the conventional approach of tackling independently infectious diseases, such as TB, and chronic non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes.

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