Diabetes and Immune dysfunction

Patients with diabetes mellitus (DM) have infections more often than those without DM. The course of the infections is also more complicated in this patient group. One of the possible causes of this increased prevalence of infections is defects in immunity. Besides some decreased cellular responses in vitro, no disturbances in adaptive immunity in diabetic patients have been described. Different disturbances (low complement factor 4, decreased cytokine response after stimulation) in humoral innate immunity have been described in diabetic patients. However, the clinical relevance of these findings is not clear. Concerning cellular innate immunity most studies show decreased functions (chemotaxis, phagocytosis, killing) of diabetic polymorphonuclear cells and diabetic monocytes/macrophages compared to cells of controls. In general, a better regulation of the DM leads to an improvement of these cellular functions. Furthermore, some microorganisms become more virulent in a high glucose environment. Another mechanism which can lead to the increased prevalence of infections in diabetic patients is an increased adherence of microorganisms to diabetic compared to nondiabetic cells. This has been described for Candida albicans. Possibly the carbohydrate composition of the receptor plays a role in this phenomenon.