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First study assessing active COVID-19 in asymptomatic people launched by IU School of Medicine

an illustration of people wearing masks

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana University School of Medicine researchers are launching a community-based study today to find out how many people in Marion County who aren’t currently showing symptoms have COVID-19.

The study, known as Tracking Asymptomatic COVID-19 Through Indianapolis Communities (TACTIC), is led by IU School of Medicine physician scientists Chandy John, MD, and James Wood, MD.

“We know that not everyone who contracts COVID-19 shows symptoms, which is why it’s so important to understand how common it is in the community,” said John, who is the director of the Ryan White Center for Pediatric Infectious Disease and Global Health at IU School of Medicine. “Our team has been working together for weeks to make sure we could start the study as quickly as possible, since we know how valuable this information will be. There are currently no community studies in the U.S. that assess active infection in both adults and children.”

People who are already part of the All IN for Health volunteer registry will receive invitations to participate via email if they live in Marion County. Other people who are interested in joining the study can learn more on the All IN for Health website.

When a home is selected for the study, a representative from IU School of Medicine will drop off an at-home nasal swab testing kit, which the volunteers will self-administer in their home. The research team is asking every person in the home to participate by using a separate testing kit, including adults and children. Volunteers do not need to have children in order to participate.

“It’s important for us to study whether children are infected,” said Wood, who is an assistant professor of pediatrics at IU School of Medicine, as well as an infectious disease doctor at Riley Hospital for Children. “Some early studies suggest that children could be a major source of asymptomatic spread, while other more recent studies suggest children have less asymptomatic infection. It’s important to know which is the case here in Indiana. Along with the participants’ age and location, we’ll be looking at ethnic and racial backgrounds to determine if certain populations are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.”

a sample collection kit for the tactic studyThe representative from IU School of Medicine who brings the test kit to each home will wait outside for family members to complete the test and then collect the samples, minimizing person-to-person interaction.

Each sample kit will be sent to a testing agency, with results returned to the researchers within five to seven days. The researchers will share the results with the participants, as well as provide additional instructions about what to do if a test comes back with a positive result.

“Our long-term goal is to understand the role of asymptomatic infection in children and adults in the spread of COVID-19,” said John. “This community-based study, the first of its kind anywhere in the U.S., will be an important first step in assessing this.”

The All IN for Health program is part of the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute.

Video

Assessing COVID-19 in asymptomatic people

Researchers at IU School of Medicine are studying how COVID-19 is transmitted to learn how to slow the spread of the virus.

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IU School of Medicine is the largest medical school in the U.S. and is annually ranked among the top medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The school offers high-quality medical education, access to leading medical research and rich campus life in nine Indiana cities, including rural and urban locations consistently recognized for livability.