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Study Finds Diabetics May Be at Increased Risk of Staph Infections

MAR 18, 2016 | SARAH ANWAR
A new study reveals that diabetics may be at an increased risk of contracting Staphylococcus aureus blood infections, due to lower immunity.

The study, carried out by a team of researchers from both Aalborg University Hospital and Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, was published in the European Journal of Endocrinology on March 10, 2016. The researchers explained that harmless staph bacteria live on the skin, however, the entrance of staph into the bloodstream can cause serious complications, citing death rates at 20-30% after 30 days of exposure.

Author Jesper Smit, stated in a journal news release that, “it has long been a common clinical belief that diabetes increases the risk of S. aureus infection, but until now this has been supported by scant evidence.” After reviewing 30,000 Danish medical records for over 12 years, however, the study team has made several discoveries. Individuals with any form of diabetes were found to be almost 3 times more susceptible to a staph blood-infection, outside of a hospital setting, than non-diabetics.

Additionally, the risk of developing a bloodstream staph infection was heightened due to several contributing factors:
  1. The number of years an individual has been living with diabetes
     
  2. Poor diabetes management
     
  3. The presence of diabetes-related complications:
    1. Heart or blood circulation problems, or diabetic ulcers
    2. Kidney complications (4 times increased risk of infection)
       
  4. The type of diabetes an individual is diagnosed with:
    1. Type 1 diabetics have >7 times increased risk of infection
    2. Type 2 diabetics have almost 3 times increased risk of infection
The researchers note that approximately 95% of diabetics are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a condition in which the body is unable to use insulin (the hormone which converts blood sugar to energy for cells), whereas 5% of diabetics are diagnosed with type 1, in which the body can’t produce insulin at all.

While discussing the research findings, Smit stated that poor diabetes management may weaken the immune system, which can explain the possible correlation between diabetes and the heightened risk of a dangerous staph infection. This, along with comorbid diabetes-related illnesses may increase a person’s vulnerability to a staph infection. Overall, long-term diabetics may need to be more closely monitored for staph.
 
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