SHEA Releases COVID-19 Research Agenda Identifying Gaps in Knowledge

Asymptomatic Spread and Long-Term Impacts Among Topics that Need Further Study
January 26, 2021

new research agenda developed by 40 leading experts in healthcare epidemiology and infectious diseases defines the critical areas of study to inform clinical practice, policy, and prevention strategies for COVID-19 and future pandemics. “COVID-19 Research Agenda for Healthcare Epidemiology,” published today in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, the journal of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, identifies gaps in our understanding of the epidemiology, transmission, and individual as well as public health consequences of viral diseases revealed during some of the worst phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The emergence and rapid worldwide spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has led to unprecedented loss of life and socio/economic disruption. The scientific community has risen to this challenge and published an enormous body of work informing our response thus far,” said Lona Mody, MD, an author of the research agenda. “Looking to the future, the community still has much to learn. We must be intentional and evidence-based on our approach to prevent and treat COVID-19 and other viral illnesses.”

The SHEA Research Committee assembled a working group of experts in the field of healthcare epidemiology to identify immediate research priorities in epidemiology, outbreak investigation, surveillance, isolation precaution practices, personal protective equipment, environmental contamination and disinfection, drug and supply shortages, antimicrobial stewardship, healthcare personnel occupational safety, and return to work policies. The thought leaders highlighted three critical research questions in each of these 10 areas addressing research needs across the lifespan.  

Among the most pressing areas for research, include:

  • Understanding the spread of the virus through asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic patients infected with COVID-19. 
  • Determining how risk factors impact disease severity, as well as understanding long-term cardiometabolic, respiratory, neurological, and psychological impacts of the virus.
  • Developing tools to identify outbreaks more rapidly in hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare settings leading to early interventions to curtail outbreaks.
  • Improving the understanding of personal protective equipment, or PPE, including socio-behavioral reasons for not following PPE guidance, as well as the continued need for PPE during and after the pandemic.

 “This research agenda calls for translational studies from laboratory-based basic science research to well-designed, large-scale studies and health outcomes research,” said Deverick Anderson, MD, MPH, the senior author of the research agenda. “To undertake this work, funding organizations must make COVID-19 research their highest priority.”  

The authors note that this research agenda, while a significant tool for shaping the direction of the scientific literature, represents expert opinion at a moment in time during the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic. They note that priorities may shift as the pandemic evolves and as vaccines and other therapeutics become available.  


Lona Mody, Deverick Anderson, et al. “COVID-19 Research Agenda for Healthcare Epidemiology.” Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology. Web (January 25, 2021).

About ICHE
Published through a partnership between the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America and Cambridge University Press, Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology provides original, peer reviewed scientific articles for anyone involved with an infection control or epidemiology program in a hospital or healthcare facility. ICHE is ranked 41st out of 89 Infectious Disease Journals in the latest Web of Knowledge Journal Citation Reports from Thomson Reuters. 

The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) is a professional society representing more than 2,000 physicians and other healthcare professionals around the world who possess expertise and passion for healthcare epidemiology, infection prevention, and antimicrobial stewardship. The society’s work improves public health by establishing infection-prevention measures and supporting antibiotic stewardship among healthcare providers, hospitals, and health systems. This is accomplished by leading research studies, translating research into clinical practice, developing evidence-based policies, optimizing antibiotic stewardship, and advancing the field of healthcare epidemiology. SHEA and its members strive to improve patient outcomes and create a safer, healthier future for all. Visit SHEA online at, and

About Cambridge University Press
Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence. Its extensive peer-reviewed publishing lists comprise 45,000 titles covering academic research, professional development, over 400 research journals, school-level education, English language teaching and bible publishing. Playing a leading role in today’s international marketplace, Cambridge University Press has over 50 offices around the globe, and it distributes its products to nearly every country in the world. For further information about Cambridge University Press, visit

Contact: Beth Casteel | 202-868-4007 
Author Contact: Kara Gavin

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