Each year on November 14, the International Diabetes Federation sponsors World Diabetes Day to raise awareness about the global burden of the disease. Although diabetes is historically associated with more affluent countries, diabetes rates are rising around the world. In 2000, about 170 million people had diabetes. Today, WHO estimates that diabetes affects more than 346 million people and about 70% of these individuals live in low- and middle-income countries. It is important to raise awareness of this growing burden and the links between diabetes and the infectious diseases that plague the developing world.
Infectious diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases are endemic in several developing regions and affect millions of individuals every day. Any of these diseases can be devastating on their own, but recent studies point to the additional hazards of suffering from an infectious disease and a noncommunicable disease like diabetes. For example, individuals with diabetes who contract dengue fever have a much greater risk of developing severe (and potentially fatal) symptoms. Similarly, studies at the University of Texas have shown that individuals with diabetes have an increased risk of contracting tuberculosis.
Because dual infections are a significant health concern, more research is necessary to better understand the relationship between noncommunicable and infectious disease. Future research funding for either disease could have broad and unexpected applications. For example, diabetes research could yield additional insight into severe dengue fever or tuberculosis research might advance an understanding of diabetes. On World Diabetes Day, we must not only raise awareness of global burden of diabetes, but of the need to prioritize research to combat it and related infectious diseases.
-Morgan McCloskey, global health intern