Infectious Diseases

We have a large ongoing programme of work using electronic health records to investigate the frequency, determinants and outcomes of infectious diseases.

One area of work is on obtaining detailed estimates of how common infections are. For example, we have carried out assessments of the changing pattern of chickenpox seen in general practice in the UK, to support decision-making by the UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation on whether to introduce chickenpox vaccination (as part of our Vaccines work).  In other studies, we have investigated trends in the incidence of community-acquired pneumonia in older individuals, the burden of community acquired infections among older patients with diabetes, and have provided updated estimates of the incidence of encephalitis in England.

We also do studies to identify risk factors for developing infectious diseases. Examples include investigations of risk factors for developing shingles (outlined in our Skin Diseases and Vaccines pages), and the role of chronic kidney disease in raising the risk of community acquired infections (as part of our Renal Diseases work).

An important aspect of our research is to quantify the outcomes of serious infections. For example, we have identified a wide variety of risk factors for being hospitalised after community-acquired pneumonia, and have investigated whether chronic kidney disease increases the risk of dying after serious infections. We have done a number of studies to show that infections can result in a short-term increased risk of heart attacks or strokes (outlined in our Cardiovascular Disease page).

We have a major commitment to developing methods to optimise our use of electronic health records when investigating infectious diseases. The increasing availability of linked anonymised health records (for example general practice records linked to hospital records) allows us to identify individuals with infectious diseases who may seek care either from their GP or via hospital; we have shown that use of linked data for infections such as pneumonia results in more complete estimates of their frequency. Linked data have also helped to distinguish hospital-acquired from community-acquired infections, and we are using them as part of our investigations of the accuracy of infectious disease diagnoses recorded in general practice.

Our programme of work assessing the impact of vaccines on infectious diseases is described in our Vaccines page.