Can Bacteria Cause Type 2 Diabetes?

A person's unique microbiome - the population and type of bacteria in the body - can influence health outcomes, but a particular type of bacteria may be more closely linked to diabetes than others.

In a new study, researchers found that exposure to Staphylococcus bacteria (staph) caused rabbits to develop symptoms of type 2 diabetes, like glucose intolerance and insulin resistance.

When a person becomes obese, his or her microbiome can change - which may then lead to chronic exposure to toxins produced by staph bacteria and disruptions in the immune system, researchers from the University of Iowa explained.

"What we are finding is that as people gain weight, they are increasingly likely to be colonized by staph bacteria - to have large numbers of these bacteria living on the surface of their skin," said Dr. Patrick Schlievert, professor and DEO of microbiology at the UI Carver College of Medicine.

Eliminating staph bacteria

According to the American Diabetes Association, staph bacteria is the most common type of organism that causes infections in diabetic patients like styes, boils or carbuncles.

The current study reveals that the toxic byproducts of staph bacteria, called superantigens, are organisms that interact with fat cells, causing systemic inflammation that then leads to the symptoms of type 2 diabetes.

"I think we have a way to intercede here and alter the course of diabetes," Schlievert said. "We are working on a vaccine against the superantigens and we believe that this type of vaccine could prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes."

Researchers are also investigating the use of a topical gel that contains glycerol monolaurate, which can kill staph bacteria on the skin upon contact.

Source: The University of Iowa, American Diabetes Association

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