A novel coronavirus, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), emerged at the end of 2019, causing the clinical illness of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). The symptoms of COVID-19 can vary dramatically in both presentation and severity. Individuals infected with COVID-19 may be asymptomatic while still able to transmit the virus. Population-based studies suggest the rate of asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 may be high, but data is lacking. In order to evaluate the true prevalence of the virus, characterize individuals that are affected and express severe symptoms and assess the effects of interventions to attenuate the proliferation of the spread of the virus, data regarding both the symptomatic and asymptomatic cases are critically important. Measurement of rates of COVID-19 are important for surveillance and predictive modeling in the general population as well as to inform scientific inquiry regarding the potential biological mechanisms underlying the expression of symptoms among select individuals. The current project will provide novel insights about COVID-19 by assessing test results of decedents referred for tissue or organ donation across the United States in an epidemiological framework. Broad dissemination of these results will inform ongoing national policy and will continue to expand the scope and accuracy of predictive modeling.

This research project will provide unique insights into the epidemiology of COVID-19 in the United States. This will be accomplished by aggregating systematic test results of COVID-19 among decedents referred for tissue and organ donation. Organ procurement organizations (OPOs) are responsible for recovering deceased donors for transplantation in the United States. OPOs are now utilizing tests of COVID-19 for decedents referred as potential donors to assess risk prior to allocation to a potential recipient. Importantly, this includes donor tissue and organs from decedents with and without symptoms or known exposure to COVID-19. This process provides a unique opportunity to evaluate the incidence, progression and characteristic of COVID-19 including decedents from unrelated causes. These data will further be analyzed via statistics and predictive models to model the trajectory of COVID-19 in the general population based on demographic and clinical characteristics of the general population in different regions of the country. This RAPID award is made by the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease Program in the Division of Environmental Biology, using funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Environmental Biology (DEB)
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Katharina Dittmar
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Cleveland Clinic Lerner
United States
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