Covid-19 and clinical-epidemiological research in Italy: proposal of a research agenda on priority topics by the Italian association of epidemiology
Epidemiologia e prevenzione
URL with Digital Object Identifier
BACKGROUND: the Covid-19 pandemic has provoked a huge of clinical and epidemiological research initiatives, especially in the most involved countries. However, this very large effort was characterized by several methodological weaknesses, both in the field of discovering effective treatments (with too many small and uncontrolled trials) and in the field of identifying preventable risks and prognostic factors (with too few large, representative and well-designed cohorts or case-control studies). OBJECTIVES: in response to the fragmented and uncoordinated research production on Covid-19, the italian Association of Epidemiology (AIE) stimulated the formation of a working group (WG) with the aims of identifying the most important gaps in knowledge and to propose a structured research agenda of clinical and epidemiological studies considered at high priority on Covid-19, including recommendations on the preferable methodology. METHODS: the WG was composed by 25 subjects, mainly epidemiologists, statisticians, and other experts in specific fields, who have voluntarily agreed to the proposal. The agreement on a list of main research questions and on the structure of the specific documents to be produced were defined through few meetings and cycles of document exchanges. RESULTS: twelve main research questions on Covid-19 were identified, covering aetiology, prognosis, interventions, follow-up and impact on general and specific populations (children, pregnant women). For each of them, a two-page form was developed, structured in: background, main topics, methods (with recommendations on preferred study design and warnings for bias prevention) and an essential bibliography. CONCLUSIONS: this research agenda represents an initial contribution to direct clinical and epidemiological research efforts on high priority topics with a focus on methodological aspects. Further development and refinements of this agenda by Public Health Authorities are encouraged.