Diabetes 'may be caused by harmful bugs in the gut'
Scientists found people with type 2 diabetes had a higher level of pathogens in their gutsThe next stage is to find whether the chances to the gut can affect the development of diabetes or vice versa
16:19 GMT, 26 September 2012
A woman tests her blood sugar: Type 2 diabetes causes high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Over time this can cause heart problems and kidney damage
Diabetes could be caused by harmful bugs in our gut, according to a study.
Scientists have shown people with the metabolic disease have more bacteria in their intestines – a breakthrough which could lead to quicker and earlier diagnosis.
Patients with type 2 diabetes – the form that develops in adults and is linked to obesity – is rising rapidly.
Study leader, Professor Jun Wang, from Copenhagen University, said: 'We have demonstrated people with type 2 diabetes have a high level of pathogens in their intestines.'
The 3.3lbs of bacteria we each carry in our intestines has an enormous impact on our health is the equilibrium is disturbed.
So Prof Wang and his team examined the intestinal bacteria of 345 people from China – 171 of whom had type 2 diabetes – and identified clear biological indicators of the condition.
The findings published in Nature also demonstrated people with type 2 diabetes have a more hostile bacterial environment in their gut which can increase resistance to different medicines.
Similar studies carried out on sufferers in Denmark also discovered a significant imbalance in the function of their intestinal bacteria and composition.
Future research will examine whether intestinal bacteria is already abnormal in people that are deemed to be at risk of developing diabetes.
Co-researcher Prof Oluf Pedersen said: 'We are going to transplant gut bacteria from people that suffer from type 2 diabetes into mice and examine whether the mice then develop diabetes.'
Scientists working on the EU research project MetaHIT have uncovered more than 3.3 million genes from people's gut bacteria which could play a key role in treating a range of serious illnesses.
Prof Karsten Kristiansen said the diabetes discovery is an important step in the comprehensive international research that is currently underway to investigate the interplay between intestinal bacteria and health.
He said: 'The Europeans and Chinese working on the MetaHIT project were able to make important new discoveries about the relationship between intestinal bacteria and health.
'The new discovery indicates a possible connection between type 2 diabetes and the intestinal bacteria in Chinese people. It is important to point out our discovery demonstrates a correlation.
'The big question now is whether the changes in gut bacteria can affect the development of type 2 diabetes or whether the changes simply reflect the person is suffering from type 2 diabetes.'