JDRF, the type 1 diabetes charityResearch ProjectsHow does coronavirus affect people with type 1 diabetes?

How does coronavirus affect people with type 1 diabetes?

Scientific title: COVID-19 antibody screening in families with type 1 diabetes: infection rate and effects on diabetes
Principal investigator: Professor Kathleen Gillespie
Institution: University of Bristol
Duration of award: June 2020 – December 2020

This project is co-funded with Diabetes UK


We know that people living with type 1 diabetes are more likely to become seriously ill if they catch coronavirus, but we don’t yet know how many people with type 1 have had the virus, or how exactly it has affected their condition.

In this research project, Professor Gillespie will test people with type 1 diabetes for whether they have had coronavirus, and use a questionnaire to ask them about their experience of managing type 1 during the pandemic.

This will give us a clearer idea of the risk that coronavirus poses to people with type 1, and could inform government policy to support and protect people with the condition.

What will Professor Gillespie do?

Professor Gillespie’s team will work with a research group in Milan that has developed a test that can detect coronavirus antibodies in a small sample of blood – small enough to be collected via post.

By offering this test to around 5,000 people already participating in ongoing studies of type 1 diabetes (the Bart’s Oxford study and UK TrialNet), Professor Gillespie will be able to estimate how many people have contracted coronavirus.

She will also ask participants to share their experiences of COVID-19 and lockdown – including whether they have been shielding, if they have had any COVID-19 symptoms, and how their blood glucose levels have reacted.

With this information, Professor Gillespie will be able to see how the type 1 diabetes community has been hit by COVID-19.

How will this research help people with type 1 diabetes?

This research project will tell us two important things: how many people with type 1 diabetes have had coronavirus, and how the virus affected these people.

These two pieces of information are vital if we want to understand the risk coronavirus poses to everyone living with type 1. Currently, we only know about its effects on people who have been seriously ill, but there may be many more people who have had milder or even no symptoms.

This project will enable clinicians to give the best possible advice to people with type 1 who catch coronavirus. It could also inform government policies on supporting and protecting people living with type 1.

For more information about coronavirus and type 1 diabetes, see our COVID-19 information page.

Can I take part in this research?

Currently, this study is only open to people already participating in the Bart’s Oxford study and UK TrialNet.

For other clinical trials that you may be able to take part in, see our pages on getting involved in research.

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