Background: Contact tracing is used for multiple infectious diseases, most recently for COVID-19, but data regarding its effectiveness in disease control are scarce. To address this knowledge gap and inform public health decision making for COVID-19, we systematically reviewed the existing literature to determine the effectiveness of contact tracing in the control of communicable illness. Methods: We searched PubMed, Embase, and the Cochrane Library from database inception up to Nov 22, 2021, for published studies evaluating associations between provider-initiated contact tracing for transmissible infectious diseases and one of three outcomes of interest: case detection rates among contacts or at the community level, overall forward transmission, or overall disease incidence. Clinical trials and observational studies were eligible, with no language or date restrictions. Reference lists of reviews were searched for additional studies. We excluded studies without a control group, using only mathematical modelling, not reporting a primary outcome of interest, or solely examining patient-initiated contact tracing. One reviewer applied eligibility criteria to each screened abstract and full-text article, and two reviewers independently extracted summary effect estimates and additional data from eligible studies. Only data reported in published manuscripts or supplemental material was extracted. Risk of bias for each included study was assessed with the Cochrane Risk of Bias 2 tool (randomised studies) or the Newcastle–Ottawa Scale (non-randomised studies). Findings: We identified 9050 unique citations, of which 47 studies met the inclusion criteria: six were focused on COVID-19, 20 on tuberculosis, eight on HIV, 12 on curable sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and one on measles. More than 2 million index patients were included across a variety of settings (both urban and rural areas and low-resource and high-resource settings). Of the 47 studies, 29 (61·7%) used observational designs, including all studies on COVID-19, and 18 (38·3%) were randomised controlled trials. 40 studies compared provider-initiated contact tracing with other interventions or evaluated expansions of provider-initiated contact tracing, and seven compared programmatic adaptations within provider-initiated contact tracing. 29 (72·5%) of the 40 studies evaluating the effect of provider-initiated contact tracing, including four (66·7%) of six COVID-19 studies, found contact tracing interventions were associated with improvements in at least one outcome of interest. 23 (48·9%) studies had low risk of bias, 22 (46·8%) studies had some risk of bias, and two (4·3%) studies (both randomised controlled trials on curable STIs) had high risk of bias. Interpretation: Provider-initiated contact tracing can be an effective public health tool. However, the ability of authorities to make informed choices about its deployment might be limited by heterogenous approaches to contact tracing in studies, a scarcity of quantitative evidence on its effectiveness, and absence of specificity of tracing parameters most important for disease control.

Fuente: The Lancet Public Health
Available online 16 February 2022