Could you have COVID-19 even if you don’t feel sick?

Illustration of people wearing nose and mouth masks

Researchers all over the world are trying to learn more about COVID-19, the new coronavirus, but they still have many questions about what it is and how it spreads. Many scientists here in Indiana are launching various studies to discover the answers to their questions.

A new study, just launched this week, is called Tracking Asymptomatic COVID-19 Through Indianapolis Communities (TACTIC). Led by Chandy John, MD, and James Wood, MD, from IU School of Medicine, the researchers are trying to find out how many people in Marion County who aren’t showing symptoms have COVID-19.

Since researchers know that not everyone who gets the disease shows symptoms, it’s important for them to understand how common that is in the community.

“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,” said John, who is the director of the Ryan White Center for Pediatric Infectious Disease and Global Health at IU School of Medicine. “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 research volunteer network have received invitations to participate via email if they live in Marion County. Other people who are interested in the study can learn more here. [Editor’s note: this study has filled the first round of participants. If you’d like to receive messages and updates on new COVID-19 volunteer opportunities as they become available, please go here and complete the form – and also your research volunteer network!]

If your home is selected for the study, a representative from IU School of Medicine will drop off an at-home nasal swab testing kit, which can be completed in participants’ home. Both adults and children living at the home can participate, but you don’t need to have children to be part of the study.

“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,” 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. “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.”

The person from IU School of Medicine who brings the test kit to your home will wait outside for everyone to complete the test, then collect the samples, so you don’t need to have close contact with them. After the results are processed, the researchers will share what they learn with the families who participate, as well as give more information about what to do if a test comes back with a positive result.