26 May 2021

Some studies suggest that people living with diabetes might be getting more serious infections than previously. Covid-19 has recently brought more attention to infection in people living with diabetes and highlighted that people from ethnic minorities are more likely to get severely ill and die of this infection. Although there are many explanations for this, for some people this is linked to their diabetes. 

About this study

In this study, ARC public health and multimorbidity researchers will use anonymised UK data collected by GPs, data from hospitals, and data from death certificates to better understand the links between diabetes and infection.  

Our research team has already worked extensively on diabetes and infections using similar data. However, we previously focused on type 2 diabetes, which is far more common. We found that overall, people living with diabetes were about 2-3 times more likely to be treated in hospital for many potentially serious infections, such as skin, bone and joint, respiratory and urinary tract infections, and sepsis. While we observed potentially higher risks for people with type 1 diabetes, this only included patients aged 40 and over, so we could not provide a comprehensive picture, as a large proportion of people living with Type 1 diabetes are under age 40.

Our previous work was also unable to consider risks by different ethnic groups, but recent improvements in data recording now make this possible. For people with type 2 diabetes, both high longer-term blood sugar levels (HbA1c) and changes in HbA1c levels over time were found to increase the chances of getting serious infections. We are now planning to examine the links between living with diabetes, high HbA1c, and changes over time in HbA1c, and infection risk for all people living with diabetes and in different ethnic groups. 

Project aims

The aims of this project are to:

  • Investigate the risks of different infections in people with type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and intermediate hyperglycaemia of all ages, and whether risks are modified by ethnicity
  • Assess whether improved glycaemic control affects these risks, and how the pattern of associations between infection and control vary by ethnicity in people living with diabetes.

Our collaborators 

Our multidisciplinary research team includes GPs, epidemiologists and statisticians, diabetes clinicians and researchers, and health economists.

We will be collaborating with researchers at St George's, University of London and King's College London and also clinicians at St George's Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. We will also be working closely with people living with diabetes and patient groups throughout the project.

Join the Patient Study Advisory Group 

The study will be informed by a Patient Study Advisory Group of people living with diabetes, to help refine questions and analyses, and to assist with interpretation and dissemination. If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes and would like to help with this work, please email: tharris@sgul.ac.uk 


This project is receiving funding from the NIHR Research for Patient Benefit programme, which funds research that is designed to increase the effectiveness of NHS services, provide value for money and benefit patients.

The project is starting in October 2021 and is expected to end in March 2023.