Diabetes tends to be viewed as a unilaterally negative condition. People who are affected with diabetes are at higher risk for heart failure, blindness, strokes and amputation. Diabetes may also have an additional surprising drawback. Researchers have found that the increased insulin levels as a result of type 2 diabetes can increase the transmission of malaria to humans.

As anyone who has unfortunately been affected with malaria can attest, malaria is a brutal disease. People afflicted with the illness suffer from high fevers, chills, and jaundice. The illness plagues tropical countries, with an estimated 300 to 500 million new cases every year. More than 1 million people die from the illness annually. It is spread by mosquitoes carrying the malaria parasite, which travels through the blood stream and infects red blood cells.

Researchers now know that the immune system of mosquitoes actually resists the malaria parasite, which slows down the spread of the virus to humans. In the research led by Nazzy Pakpour, post doctorate scholar from the University of California, Davis, insulin in humans actually suppresses the mosquito’s natural immune system, which could lead to the further transmission of the malaria parasite to humans.

Adults with type 2 diabetes have increased cases of hyperinsulinema, which means that they have more insulin. Due to the increase of the number of cases, along with elevated insulin levels from the disease, type 2 diabetes may actually be a cause for increased transmission of malaria.

This has particular consequences in areas like the Africa. There, as in everywhere, cases of type 2 diabetes are increasing. By the year 2030, it is predicted that one in five adults will be afflicted with the disease in Africa.

This could have horrific consequences for the spread of malaria, which already affects so much of the global population. In fact, presently, many people who live and have grown up in areas affected by malaria have some ability to fight off the disease. Previous research had shown that human insulin actually makes mosquitos more suspectible to the malaria parasite.

The study is published in the latest issue of Infection and Immunity.