Bacteria and viruses have an obvious role in causing infectious diseases, but microbes have also been identified as the surprising cause of other illnesses, including cervical cancer (human papilloma virus) and stomach ulcers (H. pylori bacteria). A new study by University of Iowa microbiologists now suggests that bacteria may even be a cause of one of the most prevalent diseases of our time, i.e., type 2 diabetes. The research team led by Patrick Schlievert, Ph.D., Professor and DEO of Microbiology at the University of Iowa (UI) Carver College of Medicine, found that prolonged exposure to a toxin produced by Staphylococcus aureus (Staph) bacteria causes rabbits to develop the hallmark symptoms of type 2 diabetes, including insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and systemic inflammation. "We basically reproduced type 2 diabetes in rabbits simply through chronic exposure to the Staph superantigen," Dr. Schlievert says. The UI findings suggest that therapies aimed at eliminating Staph bacteria or neutralizing the superantigens might have potential for preventing or treating type 2 diabetes. Obesity is a known risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes, but obesity also alters a person's microbiome, i.e., the ecosystem of bacteria that colonize our bodies and affect our health. "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," Dr. Schlievert says. "People who are colonized by Staph bacteria are being chronically exposed to the superantigens the bacteria are producing." Dr.
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