Under the leadership of Dana Pasquale, Postdoctoral Associate, Department of Sociology, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have awarded the innovative two-year “Respondent-Driven Sampling, Respiratory Disease Surveillance Study (the SNOWBALL Study)” to a large consortium of Duke researchers, to better understand SARS-CoV-2 Transmission in Durham County, NC.
The SNOWBALL Study brings together researchers from Duke Forge, Duke Crucible, the Covidentify Study , the Duke Population Research Institute (DUPRI) and the MESSI Study to investigate the potential of the Respondent Driven Sampling (RDS) methodology. The RDS approach relies on respondents’ active engagement of their own close-contact networks to build a self-generating contact trace from persons who test positive for infection with SARS-CoV-2.
The study will offer a translational toolset combining social-structural insights about how community structures impact viral infection, integrating clinical expertise that can detect, treat, and monitor populations. As a link-tracing sampling approach, RDS leverages new cases of infection to identify new testing candidates. Respondents provide information on close contacts and venues frequented, acting as key informants for infection risk likelihood at each place.
Unlike traditional contact tracing that relies on professional contact tracers, in the SNOWBALL study respondents reach out to peers for recruitment of the next round on interviews. This peer-driven element substantially increases trust in the testing outreach, as contacted individuals usually have a social bond with their recruiter. Relying on the RDS approach as a tracing methodology, the study will allow investigators to reach more diverse populations, provide either at-home or in-clinic testing as desired, and test for both active infection and convalescence.
Through close collaboration with the Duke University Health System (DUHS), the SNOWBALL Study will select patients who test positive for SARS-CoV-2 in Durham, NC as “seeds.” Seed respondents will be asked to recruit close contacts whom they think are at highest risk of infection.
The benefits provided by this network-targeted sampling approach will include: 1) locating cases that might otherwise be reluctant to test, 2) assessing population network linkages that facilitate spread, and 3) potentially interrupting transmission by increasing speed and specificity of case-finding and diagnosing cases earlier.
Study Co-Investigators at Duke include: James Moody, Robert O. Keohane Professor of Sociology, Director of the Duke Network Analysis Center (DNAC), Development Core Director for the Duke Population Research Center (DPRC) and faculty mentor for Dr. Pasquale, Chris Woods, Executive Director, Hubert-Yeargan Center for Global Health, Professor, Medicine and Global Health, Jessilyn Dunn, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Erich Huang, Chief Data Officer for Quality, Duke University Health System Assistant Professor in Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, Assistant Dean for Biomedical Informatics, and Director of Duke Forge and Duke Crucible, Keisha Bentley-Edwards, Assistant Professor of Medicine, and Micha McClain , Assistant Professor of Medicine and Member of the Center for Applied Genomics and Precision Medicine.
SNOWBALL Study collaborators are optimistic that this innovative network-targeted sampling strategy will efficiently identify active cases and thereby reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission in NC.
For more information on the SNOWBALL Study contact Dana Pasquale.