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Diabetes is a major risk factor for respiratory infections, research suggests

Photo via: NIAID

Given the unusual number of confirmed cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), a group of researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, decided to examine any risk factors associated with the condition.

Finally, they determined that diabetes may be an important risk factor for the development of respiratory infections following an extensive study published in the journal. Journal of Clinical Investigation Insights.

The researchers came to this conclusion by investigating the correlation between diabetes and MERS-CoV in rodents. Compared to the healthy rodent control group, the results detail that the respiratory syndrome did not spread faster among rodents with diabetes than originally theorized. Instead, diabetic rodents showed a delayed and prolonged inflammatory response in the respiratory system.

The study also detailed lower levels of inflammatory cytokines, macrophages, and T cells among diabetic rodents, a likely indicator that MERS-CoV infection in diabetics was caused by a dysfunction in the body's response to the condition.

"We have long known that diabetic patients have worse results when they have a serious infectious disease, but this new insight into immune function may pave the way for better treatments," said study researcher Dean Albert Reece.

"This is an important finding for diabetes patients and doctors who treat them."

Matthew Frieman, co-author of the study, adds: "It is critical to understand how diabetes contributes to the severity of the disease after MERS-CoV infection in this context."

"Our next step is to determine what drives the altered immune response in diabetics and how to reverse these effects with treatment therapy for patients."

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