Monday, March 8

COVID-19 Research: Pathophysiology, Epidemiology, Clinical Management and Public Health Response


An outbreak of a respiratory disease first reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and the causative agent was discovered in January 2020 to be a novel betacoronovirus of the same subgenus as SARS-CoV and named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has rapidly disseminated worldwide, with clinical manifestations ranging from mild respiratory symptoms to severe pneumonia and a fatality rate estimated around 2%. Person to person transmission is occurring both in the community and healthcare settings. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently declared the COVID-19 epidemic a public health emergency of international concern.

The ongoing outbreak presents many clinical and public health management challenges due to limited understanding of viral pathogenesis, risk factors for infection, natural history of disease including clinical presentation and outcomes, prognostic factors for severe illness, period of infectivity, modes and extent of virus inter-human transmission, as well as effective preventive measures and public health response and containment interventions. There are no antiviral treatment nor vaccine available but fast track research and development efforts including clinical therapeutic trials are ongoing across the world.

Managing this serious epidemic requires the appropriate deployment of limited human resources across all cadres of health care and public health staff, including clinical, laboratory, managerial and epidemiological data analysis and risk assessment experts. It presents challenges around public communication and messaging around risk, with the potential for misinformation and disinformation. Therefore, integrated operational research and intervention, learning from experiences across different fields and settings should contribute towards better understanding and managing COVID-19.

This Research Topic aims to highlight interdisciplinary research approaches deployed during the COVID-19 epidemic, addressing knowledge gaps and generating evidence for its improved management and control. It will incorporate critical, theoretically informed and empirically grounded original research contributions using diverse approaches, experimental, observational and intervention studies, conceptual framing, expert opinions and reviews from across the world. The Research Topic proposes a multi-dimensional approach to improving the management of COVID-19 with scientific contributions from all areas of virology, immunology, clinical microbiology, epidemiology, therapeutics, communications as well as infection prevention and public health risk assessment and management studies.

Submissions are welcome for the following article types: original research, review, mini-reviews, systematic reviews, research protocol, opinion and hypothesis. We particularly welcome contributions that include, but are not limited to, the following topics:

• SARS-CoV-2 genome structure, encoded proteins, replication properties, viral pathogenesis, comparative phylogenetic and viral receptor binding analysis within the betacoronavirus genus, e.g. SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV;
• SARS-CoV-2 antiviral susceptibility and antigen diversity;
• Natural history of COVID-19 clinical disease spectrum in different populations and analysis of intrinsic and extrinsic prognostic factors, including sero-epidemiological studies in the general population;
• Host factors, including host genetics and immunological variabilities, and their association with disease severity;
• Modes and dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the household, workplace, closed community and healthcare settings, including the role of super-spreading events;
• Systematic reviews and meta-analysis of COVID-19 epidemiological studies and surveillance data as well as modeling studies and analytical methods for risk assessment studies;
• Effectiveness of COVID-19 infection prevention and control procedures including personal protective equipment and airborne/aerosol versus droplet isolation precautions for specific healthcare settings and epidemiological stages of the outbreak;
• Effectiveness of novel public health interventions for containment or impact mitigation of the COVID-19 outbreak, including social distancing and quarantine measures;
• Clinical accuracy and effectiveness of rapid SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics and serological assays;
• Pre-clinical development and clinical trials of therapeutic agents for COVID-19;
• Pre-clinical development and clinical trials of COVID-19 candidate vaccines;
• Evaluation of methods for COVID-19 epidemiological surveillance, contact tracing studies and public health risk assessment, including digital health solutions and modeling/forecasting studies;
• Clinical immunology of COVID-19, including specific antibody and cellular immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 and protective immunity;
• Challenges and the potential for communication, including social media, social distancing, and ‘community spread;
• Community, culture, and technology-based interventions;
• Analysis of social and behavior assumptions underpinning epidemiological models of viral transmission;
• The use of epidemiological and infectious disease models in public health and political messaging;
• Understanding of social, economic and political costs of public health interventions such as lock-down, self-isolation and social distancing;
• Implications of the current pandemic for governance and the social justice agenda worldwide;
• Analysing current social change to forecast post-pandemic futures;