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Background:On 31 December, 2019, the World Health Organization China Country Office was informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown aetiology. Since then, there have been over 75 000 cases globally of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), 2000 deaths, and over 14 000 cases recovered. Outbreaks of novel agents represent opportunities for clinical research to inform real-time public health action. In 2018, we conducted a systematic review to identify priority research questions for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-related coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-related coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Here, we review information available on COVID-19 and provide an evidenced-based framework for priority clinical research in the current outbreak. Methods:Three bibliographic databases were searched to identify clinical studies published on SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV in the outbreak setting. Studies were grouped thematically according to clinical research questions addressed. In February 2020, available information on COVID19 was reviewed and compared to the results of the SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV systematic review. Results:From the research objectives for SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, ten themes in the literature were identified: Clinical characterisation, prognosis, diagnosis, clinical management, viral pathogenesis, epidemiological characterisation, infection prevention and control/transmission, susceptibility, psychosocial, and aetiology. For COVID19, some information on clinical presentation, diagnostic testing, and aetiology is available but many clinical research gaps have yet to be filled. Conclusions:Based on a systematic review of other severe coronaviruses, we summarise the state of clinical research for COVID-19, highlight the research gaps, and provide recommendations for the implementation of standardised protocols. Data based on internationally standardised protocols will inform clinical practice real-time.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of global health

Publication Date





Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.


Humans, Coronavirus, Pneumonia, Viral, Coronavirus Infections, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, Disease Outbreaks, Evidence-Based Emergency Medicine, Pandemics, Betacoronavirus