Activation of the innate immune system as a predictor of cardiovascular mortality in Type 2 diabetes mellitus

Diabet Med. 2003 Sep;20(9):723-6. doi: 10.1046/j.1464-5491.2003.00990.x.


Aims: Activation of innate immunity may play a major role in the development and pathophysiology of Type 2 diabetes; we therefore investigated whether a marker of innate immunity (serum sialic acid) predicts cardiovascular disease (CVD) and all-cause mortality in Type 2 diabetes.

Methods: Type 2 diabetic subjects (n=128, age 31-64 years at outset) participating in the Lewisham Diabetes Survey were followed up for a mean of 12.8 years. Baseline measurements were made of serum sialic acid and known or putative risk factors for CVD. Cause of death was coded from death certificates, post mortem examination and hospital records.

Results: Fifty-six (43%) subjects had died after 12.8 years. The major cause of death was CVD (71.4%), predominantly coronary heart disease (62.5%). Baseline variables significantly associated with CVD mortality were sialic acid and CVD (borderline significance smoking and cholesterol). In multivariate analysis, significant independent predictors of CVD mortality were sialic acid [standardized relative risk (95% confidence interval) 1.53 (1.12, 2.10)], age, male sex and existing CVD.

Conclusions: Activated innate immunity (low-grade inflammation) is a risk factor for CVD mortality in Type 2 diabetes, independently of other known risk factors, including existing CVD. Since activation of the innate immune system predicts Type 2 diabetes, it may be a common antecedent of both Type 2 diabetes and CVD.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cause of Death
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / immunology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / mortality
  • Diabetic Angiopathies / blood
  • Diabetic Angiopathies / immunology*
  • Diabetic Angiopathies / mortality
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • London / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • N-Acetylneuraminic Acid / blood
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Analysis


  • Biomarkers
  • N-Acetylneuraminic Acid