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Spotlight On: CDC COVID-19 Research Studies

CDC COVID-19 Research Studies

The global COVID-19 pandemic has proved disastrous for the world’s health and economies. Millions of people have been infected. More than a million people have died. And millions more are out of work as economies stumbled and fell. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) plays a critical role in combatting the pandemic and conducting research. CDC’s real-time surveillance of COVID-19 cases and analyses of surveillance data inform public health policies, communication about protective behaviors, and guidance to public health and healthcare providers, communities, businesses, and schools.

To carry out its responsibilities, CDC urgently requires research data to further inform the COVID-19 response, especially related to risk and protective factors across key population groups. They include healthcare personnel, first responders, and essential workers; pregnant women and infants; individuals 50 years and older; older adults in continuing care retirement communities; and households.

covid methods


Abt is supporting a variety of CDC COVID-19 research initiatives. Since 2013 under a contract with CDC, Abt has managed an infrastructure of clinical health organizations set up to conduct network studies to assess risk and characterize disease epidemiology of novel influenza or other novel respiratory viruses among different population cohorts. Abt recognized that it could pivot and use this infrastructure to perform these tasks for COVID-19. Abt has significant experience with the approaches needed to provide the studies and data CDC requires. They include:

  • Study design
  • Data collection and coordination
  • Data management, cleaning, and analytic file preparation
  • Specimen collection, processing, and testing
  • Technical assistance and training
  • Project management

In addition, under a separate contract, Abt is a subcontractor and will provide staff to the CDC’s COVID-19 Epidemiology Task Force. The CDC Epidemiology Task Force is responsible for identifying and tracking COVID-19 cases, spread, and containment and is critical to accomplishing the CDC’s mission and goals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

covid research


Studying cohorts with different characteristics and vulnerabilities is critical to understanding how an infectious disease spreads and affects the body. It’s especially important for monitoring vaccine safety and effectiveness. Our infectious disease and clinical research experts are leading prospective COVID-19 cohort studies with CDC and partners to assess:

  • household transmission
  • transmissibility of infection
  • rates of infection and illness
  • clinical epidemiology of the disease
  • characteristics of medically and non-medically attended cases.

The Abt team will study five cohorts which are described below.

covid epidemiology

Research on the Epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 in Essential Response personnel (RECOVER) Study

The RECOVER study is a prospective, longitudinal cohort study of approximately 3,000 healthcare personnel, first responders, and essential workers from six U.S. geographies. This research will offer CDC timely information on COVID-19 illness characterization and correlates of protection in this highly-exposed cohort. The research will also provide rates of asymptomatic infection and re-infection as well as details on viral shedding. Since this population will be prioritized for vaccination with novel COVID-19 vaccine products, this study will also accommodate an evaluation of the effectiveness of a vaccine, once it is available.

Read More About the Research:

covid pregnancy

Epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 in Pregnancy and Infancy (ESPI) Network Study

Pregnant women may be more vulnerable to respiratory infections and severe respiratory complications, and more research is needed on potential effects of these on birth outcomes. ESPI is using an existing network of sites and protocols from the CDC Pandemic Flu and Global Flu contracts to conduct two separate cohort studies among pregnant women. Findings from this study will provide timely information for CDC on the risk factors for infection and characteristics of COVID-19 illness and complications, as well as the effects of infection on pregnancy and infant outcomes. A better understanding of this burden may help inform future public health policy regarding pregnant women, young infants, and COVID-19.

Read More About the Research:

covid geisinger study

Geisinger Electronic Cohort Study and Geisinger Prospective Case-Control Study

Older adults in particular are considered a high-risk group for contracting novel coronavirus and for developing severe illness if infected. This study will consist of two activities:

  • an electronic cohort that monitors and describes medical care for hospitalized patients in a rural health care system aged ≥50 years old based on electronic medical record extraction.

  • prospective enrollment and follow-up of a subset of test-positive study participants and matched test-negative controls who were admitted to inpatient care and tested for novel coronavirus.

The study will examine serologic indicators of infection, correlates of protection, and patterns of medical care and health outcomes among three age groups (50-64 years, 65-79 years, 80+ years old).

covid retirement

COVID-19 Illness and Testing among Retirement Communities in the US (CITRUS) Cohort Study

Older adults are among those with the highest risk for medically attended COVID-19. Characterization of risk factors and clinical epidemiology of COVID-19 among older adults may inform public health strategies to prevent infection and reduce the burden of severe disease in this population. Within participating retirement communities, the CITRUS project will enroll residents from different resident groups (independent living homes and assisted living facilities). Active surveillance will capture COVID-19 cases among both symptomatic and asymptomatic participants. The primary objectives of the CITRUS cohort are to: 1) estimate the cumulative incidence of asymptomatic and symptomatic infection in community-dwelling older adults in the US; and 2) establish kinetics of immunity over time. Secondary objectives include describing illness severity, risk factors for infection, healthcare utilization, and immune response to vaccination and vaccine effectiveness when SARS-CoV-2 vaccines become available.

covid household

Coronavirus Household Evaluation and Respiratory Testing (C-HEaRT) Cohort Study

Household studies offer researchers a unique opportunity to capture illnesses among individuals who do not seek medical care. These studies allow for a better understanding of the true burden of disease and other characteristics of the illness. C-HEaRT adapts existing methodologies used during influenza pandemics to assess epidemiological and clinical characteristics of COVID-19. They include incidence, risk of transmission and infection, illness progression, clinical characteristics of severity, modifying behaviors, serum biomarkers, and other characteristics. Findings from this study will support CDC’s role during a pandemic for monitoring pandemic-related illness, describing the epidemiology of pandemic virus infection and the burden of disease, and monitoring and evaluating the use of public health interventions, antiviral treatment, and vaccine effectiveness.

In addition to C-HEaRT, Abt is leading data management-related activities for its sister study, SARS-CoV-2 Epidemiology And Response in Children (SEARCh), which is being led by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

Read More About the Research:

covid pediatric

Pediatric Research Observing Trends and Exposures in COVID-19 Timelines (PROTECT) Study

The PROTECT study is a longitudinal pediatric cohort study that evaluates COVID-19 vaccines’ real-world effectiveness in 2,300 U.S. children in four geographies. The study will provide ongoing estimates of effectiveness for COVID-19 vaccines for adolescents aged 12 to 17 years and children aged 5 to 11 years. It will include boosters or additional doses as they become available. The study also will provide a platform for studying vaccine effectiveness in children aged 6 months to 4 years should vaccines be approved for this age group. In addition, the study monitors the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 and influenza infection in this pediatric population.

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Contact Us

Danielle Hunt, PhD, MPH

Vice President, CDC Client Account Management
Division of Health & Environment
Atlanta, GA
(404) 946-6305

Learn more about our CDC COVID-19 Surveillance Project

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