Updated 21 February 2017

Diabetes may raise risk for staph infections

Researchers believe that diabetes might dampen the immune system, leaving people more vulnerable to staph blood infections.


People with diabetes may be significantly more likely to develop potentially deadly "staph" blood infections than those without diabetes, a new study suggests.

Type 1 diabetes more dangerous

As the Danish researchers explained, bacteria live on the skin and are normally harmless. However, the germs can cause dangerous infections if they enter the bloodstream.

In fact, the 30-day death rate from such infections is 20 percent to 30 percent, according to the research team from Aalborg University Hospital and Aarhus University Hospital.

In their new study, the researchers tracked the medical records of 30,000 people in Denmark over 12 years. 

Read: Prevalence of diabetes in South Africa

Overall, they found that people with any form of diabetes were almost three times more likely to acquire a staph blood infection outside a hospital, compared to those without diabetes.

The risk jumped to more than seven times higher among people with type 1 diabetes, and almost three times higher for those with type 2 diabetes.

About 95 percent of people with diabetes have the type 2 form of the disease, which is often (but not always) linked to obesity and involves a dysfunction in the body's ability to use insulin. About 5 percent of diabetes is type 1, where the body has lost its ability to produce insulin, the hormone that converts blood sugar to energy for cells.

Closer monitoring required

The new study also found that the combination of diabetes and related kidney problems boosted the odds for staph blood infection by more than fourfold, compared to people without these conditions. People with other diabetes-linked complications, such as heart and circulation problems and diabetic ulcers, were also at increased risk.

Read: Antibiotics linked to type 2 diabetes risk

The study was published in the European Journal of Endocrinology.

"It has long been a common clinical belief that diabetes increases the risk of S. aureus infection, but until now this has been supported by scant evidence," study author Jesper Smit said in a journal news release.

His team also found that the risk of staph bloodstream infection rose with the number of years a person had diabetes. Poor control of diabetes was another factor that upped the infection risk.

The findings suggest that long-term diabetes patients may require closer monitoring for infections, Smit's team said.

"Poor management of diabetes can lead to an impaired immune response," he explained. "This may be the reason why diabetes patients are at higher risk of infection. Similarly, diabetic patients often suffer associated illnesses – the burden of multiple health care problems can also increase susceptibility to infection." 

Read more: 

What is diabetes? 

Symptoms of diabetes 

Diagnosing diabetes


Ask the Expert

Diabetes expert

Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules