The re-emerging association between tuberculosis and diabetes: Lessons from past centuries

Jose Cadena, Selvalakshmi Rathinavelu, Juan C. Lopez-Alvarenga, Blanca I. Restrepo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The association between tuberculosis (TB) and diabetes mellitus (DM) had a common place in the literature up to the first half of the 20th century, but virtually disappeared with the discovery of insulin to treat DM and antibiotics to cure TB. In the late 1990s the literature began to re-emerge with the worldwide increase in type 2 DM, particularly in TB-endemic countries. Today, type 2 DM is the most prevalent comorbidity among TB patients and the World Health Organization considers it a threat to TB control. We summarize the literature on TB and DM up to the 1960s. Then we evaluate unique aspects of this comorbidity in older times, such as the frequent diabetic comas that suggest challenges for proper DM management as insulin was being implemented, or the absence of antibiotics to cure TB. Despite the unique aspects of each study period, the literature across times is consistent in key aspects of the association. Namely, a higher TB prevalence among DM (versus non-DM patients), the importance of glucose control and chronic DM on TB susceptibility and the higher risk of death among patients with the co-morbidity. From the older literature, we can infer the likely contribution of type 1 DM to TB (in addition to type 2), regardless of their differing autoimmune or metabolic pathophysiology, respectively. Furthermore, in the older literature there was a notable reporting of DM development among TB patients, even though DM usually preceded TB. This observation deserves further epidemiological and basic studies to elucidate this intriguing aspect of the relationship between TB and DM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S89-S97
StatePublished - May 2019


  • Death
  • History
  • Treatment outcomes
  • Tuberculosis
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Type 2 diabetes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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