Infections in the diabetic patient: the role of immune dysfunction and pathogen virulence factors

J Diabetes Complications. Oct-Dec 1992;6(4):258-62. doi: 10.1016/1056-8727(92)90062-p.


It is a common belief that certain infections occur more frequently in patients with diabetes mellitus than in nondiabetics. In some infections, poor diabetic control is strongly linked. Diabetics comprise 50%-70% of all patients who undergo nontraumatic foot or leg amputations, the overwhelming majority of which are necessitated by infection and necrosis of soft tissue and/or bone. Imputed host defense abnormalities include defective immune responses (e.g., white blood cell function, granuloma formation), peripheral neuropathies, impaired distal arterial supply, and problems in "control" of the diabetic state eventuating in catabolic metabolism. Increased bacterial translocation as a source of the causative bacteria is another potential entry site. Possible virulence factors of the invading organisms include polymicrobial synergism, glycocalyx formation, and inoculum size. Attention to the principles of preventive education, vascular evaluation, diabetes management, and adequate debridement maximize healing potential.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Communicable Diseases / etiology*
  • Communicable Diseases / immunology
  • Diabetes Complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / immunology
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Phagocytes / physiology
  • Phagocytosis
  • Virulence