A recent study has demonstrated a link between bacterial exposure and the development of diabetes mellitus type 2 (DMII). This important work could lead to new treatments or even prevention through species-specific interventions.
Staphylococcus aureus is an opportunistic bacteria that lives on the skin. Colonization by S. aureus is associated with expression of a superantigen called toxic shock syndrome toxin-1 (TSST-1) which results in systemic immune activation. Importantly, there is a positive correlation between obesity and S. aureus colonization. In a recent study using a rabbit model, scientists from the University of Iowa showed that S. aureus colonization, and the resulting TSST-1 exposure, results in a loss in glucose response, increased insulin production, systemic inflammation, liver damage and increased circulating endotoxin – all hallmarks of DMII. To validate these findings they measured TSST-1 levels in DMII patients and found elevated levels. This is the first direct connection between bacterial exposure and diabetes.