Maximizing and evaluating the impact of test-trace-isolate programs: A modeling study

Kyra H. Grantz, Elizabeth C. Lee, Lucy D’Agostino McGowan, Kyu Han Lee, Jessica C.E. Metcalf, Emily S. Gurley, Justin Lessler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Background Test-trace-isolate programs are an essential part of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVIDAU -19): control that offer a more targeted approach than many other nonpharmaceutical interventions. Effective use of such programs requires methods to estimate their current and anticipated impact. Methods and findings We present a mathematical modeling framework to evaluate the expected reductions in the reproductive number, R, from test-trace-isolate programs. This framework is implemented in a publicly available R package and an online application. We evaluated the effects of completeness in case detection and contact tracing and speed of isolation and quarantine using parameters consistent with COVID-19 transmission (R0: 2.5, generation time: 6.5 days). We show that R is most sensitive to changes in the proportion of cases detected in almost all scenarios, and other metrics have a reduced impact when case detection levels are low (<30%). Although test-trace-isolate programs can contribute substantially to reducing R, exceptional performance across all metrics is needed to bring R below one through test-trace-isolate alone, highlighting the need for comprehensive control strategies. Results from this model also indicate that metrics used to evaluate performance of test-trace-isolate, such as the proportion of identified infections among traced contacts, may be misleading. While estimates of the impact of test-trace-isolate are sensitive to assumptions about COVID-19 natural history and adherence to isolation and quarantine, our qualitative findings are robust across numerous sensitivity analyses. Conclusions Effective test-trace-isolate programs first need to be strong in the “test” component, as case detection underlies all other program activities. Even moderately effective test-trace-isolate programs are an important tool for controlling the COVID-19 pandemic and can alleviate the need for more restrictive social distancing measures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1003585
JournalPLoS Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 30 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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