World Diabetes Day: The Union stresses the need for a coordinated global approach to diabetes mellitus-tuberculosis

This World Diabetes Day, 14 November, The Union is pressing for a more coordinated global approach to tackling the urgent co-epidemic of tuberculosis (TB) and diabetes.

Diabetes reduces immune function and increases a person’s risk of developing TB three-fold, and is an underlying factor in 400,000 cases of TB each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO)’s most recent Global Tuberculosis Report. The rapidly growing epidemic of diabetes in low- and middle-income countries threatens TB care and prevention efforts and makes treatment for both diseases more complicated and less successful.

Recently The Union, in partnership with the World Diabetes Foundation, developed a comprehensive technical resource for frontline health professionals in the management and care of people with both diabetes-mellitus and TB.

The guide ‘Management of Diabetes Mellitus-Tuberculosis: A Guide to the Essential Practice’ draws on evidence from published research, expert opinion and practical experience to offer practical support for front-line staff. It also complements the ‘Collaborative framework for care and control of TB and diabetes’ launched by The Union and WHO in 2011, which served as a guide to establishing a coordinated response to both diseases at the organisational and clinical level.

A study presented at the 50th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Hyderabad, India, provided further evidence of the risk factors for TB patients with diabetes, concluding that robust screening of diabetics for TB is imperative.

The study analysed the diagnostic profile and treatment outcomes of TB in diabetics as compared to that in non-diabetics. It examined 1592 patients with TB and revealed poor treatment outcomes of TB in 28 percent of diabetics, compared to 10 percent non-diabetics.

The fight to end TB cannot be in isolation; to end TB we must also fight the co-epidemics that cause the most harm. To mark World Diabetes Day, The Union calls on governments and world leaders to act now to tackle the co-epidemic between TB and diabetes, through supporting healthcare professionals, implementing effective screening and care programmes.