Breaking News - Is it possible to catch diabetes?
AutoNews- At one time, infectious diseases used to decimate human populations — catching something such as cholera or smallpox was usually a death sentence.But now, thanks to vaccines and antibiotics, few of us need worry about ‘catching’ anything worse than a cold, flu or an upset stomach.But have we become too complacent?Intriguingly, scientists are finding evidence that you may be able to catch such ‘lifestyle’ disorders as diabetes, Alzheimer’s and even joint pain.Last year, scientists found that bacteria from the gut that have been linked to conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and allergies can form spores — tiny hibernating ‘seeds’ given off by live bacteria that help it survive and multiply.The research, published in the journal Nature, showed these spores can survive in the open air and could potentially infect other people. ‘This is a new way of transmitting disease that hasn’t been considered before,’ said researchers at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.It’s cutting-edge science and, of course, more research is needed, but here we look at the surprising conditions researchers now believe might be infectious…CAN YOU PICK UP DIABETES FROM MEAT?Earlier this year, U.S. researchers suggested that type 2 diabetes may be caught from damaged proteins known as prions — these are infectious agents, like those that transmitted BSE (or mad cow disease) from cattle to humans.This is very different to the standard explanation for diabetes of too much weight and too little exercise leading to an excess of sugar (glucose) in the blood because the hormone insulin stops working correctly. The suggestion of ‘infectious’ diabetes may sound absurd at first, but a team at the University of Texas has found some striking evidence, published in The Journal of Experimental Medicine.The researchers first found that most type 2 patients had clumps of damaged protein — known as IAPP — in their pancreas, the organ which produces insulin that is vital for keeping blood sugar at the right level.Researchers have long known that damaged protein accumulates in the pancreas of diabetes patients, but they had generally assumed it was the result of the disease rather than a possible cause.Then, and this is the crucial bit, the team injected IAPP into the pancreas of healthy mice and within a few weeks the mice also had too much blood sugar, and the insulin-producing beta cells in their pancreas were dying off.It’s not definitive proof that diabetes can be caught, and it doesn’t necessarily mean diabetes can be spread like flu — prions don’t get passed on by contact or breathing them in — but the team is now investigating possible ways prions could infect humans, such as via blood transfusions or eating prion-infected meat.‘Our data opens up an entirely new area of research,’ they said.It is still only a theory, but with more evidence it could point to new ways to slow this rising epidemic. And it might help explain why some apparently slim, healthy people develop type 2 diabetes.Despite scientists’ efforts, we still understand little about the cause — let alone cure — for several dreadful diseases that slowly destroy brain cells, such as Alzheimer’s or ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as motor neurone disease) which causes creeping and total paralysis.Recently, however, a potential culprit has emerged — cyanobacteria, a close relative of algae, which creates blooms on lakes and ponds.When in bloom, cyanobacteria contains a toxin, known as BMAA, that can damage the brain when it gets into the human body.The cruel effect of BMAA was first spotted years ago when it was noted that inhabitants of the island of Guam in the Pacific had a high rate of a disease with symptoms similar to both Alzheimer’s and ALS.Researchers made a link between eating the seeds of the cycad tree, now known to contain BMAA, and the disease.Meanwhile, in the U.S. a neurologist identified ALS hotspots near lakes and wondered if cyanobacteria blooms on the water could be a factor.It turned out that the air above a blooming lake was full of cyanobacteria in aerosol form, thrown up in the spray created by wind or boats, which could be inhaled. Then BMAA was found in diseased brains.‘This research is in a very early stage,’ says Professor David Smith, a pharmacologist and Alzheimer’s researcher at Oxford University. ‘Other microbes have also been linked with Alzheimer’s, but the evidence is very limited.’Earlier this year, however, scientists at the