Study Suggests Diabetes Linked to Bacteria

Working with rabbits, researchers at the University of Iowa were able to cause the symptoms of type 2 diabetes--insulin resistance, glucose intolerance and inflammation--by exposing the animals to the toxins of staph bacteria for a prolonged period of time.

How can bacteria cause diabetes? Superantigens, also known as toxins produced by staph strains, affect fat cells and upset the immune system to cause systemic inflammation. This inflammation in turn triggers insulin resistance and the other classic symptoms of diabetes. A person can be continuously exposed to these superantigens if staph bacteria begin to colonize in their body. As people gain weight, they are increasing their susceptibility to staph bacteria because they have more skin.

Obesity is linked to type 2 diabetes and the research team estimates that the amount of exposure from staph colonization for a person is similar to the amount of superantigens the rabbits were exposed to in the experiment. The scientists believe their research could lead to therapies aimed at eliminating staph bacteria or neutralizing the superantigens and that that might have potential for preventing or treating type 2 diabetes.

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