By Anthony Harries
Last year, tuberculosis surpassed HIV-AIDS to become the world’s deadliest infectious disease. According to a recent report by the World Health Organisation, the illness claims about 1.5 million lives every year.
Astonishingly, one out of every three people worldwide lives with a latent TB infection that could eventually develop into the active – and potentially deadly – form of the disease.
Great progress has been made in the fight against TB in recent decades; since 2000, some 43m lives have been saved as a result. But world leaders have yet to mount a response commensurate with the scale of the problem. Our response needs to change – especially as we learn more about the interaction between TB and another deadly global killer: diabetes.
Type-2 diabetes not only renders the body incapable of processing or responding to insulin; it also weakens the immune system, increasing its victims’ risk of developing active TB. People with diabetes are three times more likely to fall prey to TB. Diabetes can also make patients less responsive to standard TB therapies and elevate the chance of relapse after the disease has been treated.