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Call to action to halt the looming TB-diabetes co-epidemic

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Babs Verblackt, Citizen News Service (CNS)

(CNS): It is time to act and no time to waste. That is the urgent message of the report "The Looming Co-epidemic of TB-Diabetes: A Call to Action" launched jointly by the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) and the World Diabetes Foundation (WDF) at the opening day of the 45th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Barcelona. The report warns against the brewing storm of diabetes and tuberculosis (TB) that is no longer confined to the teacup.

People with diabetes have a three times greater risk of contracting TB than those without diabetes. People with TB have high rates of diabetes that often go undiagnosed.

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Diabetes is on the rise globally, and is projected to increase from 382 million cases in 2013 to 592 million cases in 2035. Also the burden of the disease is moving from developed countries to developing and emerging-market countries. 6 of the top 10 countries projected to have the greatest number of people living with diabetes in the year 2035 are also classified as high TB burden countries by the World Health Organization (WHO). These countries include China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Pakistan and the Russian Federation.

The report lists recommendations for practical action on policy, programme implementation, financing and technical assistance, health service delivery, and advocacy level.

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Interaction with an impact

"The burden of diabetes continues to grow while the decline in TB has been slowed down. The interaction between TB and diabetes may further impact the decline in TB. If action is not taken to address the double burden of TB and diabetes the gains in control and containment of TB may get undone," Dr Anil Kapur, member of the Board of Directors of the World Diabetes Foundation told Citizen News Service (CNS).

"In places where this issue has been studied - from India to China to East-Africa and the United States -- we are seeing significantly higher rates of diabetes among TB patients than what appears in the general population. If we do not act now to head this off, we are going to experience a co-epidemic of TB-diabetes that will impact millions and sap public health systems of precious resources. The key is to prevent this from happening," he said.

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Action on the ground

This timely report on the looming co-epidemic synthesizes evidence from the medical and scientific literature, promotes an international policy framework for action, and lays out a new research agenda to fill knowledge gaps.

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