Non-drug interventions for reducing SARS-CoV-2 transmission are frequently incompletely reported

Open AccessPublished:March 02, 2023DOI:
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        Key findings

      • The behavioural, environmental, social and systems interventions which have been the mainstay of Covid-19 pandemic management are often incompletely presented in reports of randomised trials that are evaluating them. Completeness of intervention descriptions can be improved after contacting investigators, though investigators frequently do not respond to requests for information.

        What this study adds to what is known

      • There is poor reporting of elements needed for the use of interventions, but further information can be obtained by contacting study investigators and a standard reporting format (TIDieR checklist) for describing intervention can be used.
      • This study assessed the extent of the problem of incomplete intervention description reporting of behavioural, environmental, social and systems interventions (BESSI) that have been relied upon to limit Covid-19 transmission and evaluated in randomised trials

        What is the implication, what should change now

      • Incomplete reporting of BESSI hampers the ability to build on the findings of existing trials and the implementation of interventions that limit the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the context of pandemic urgency where rapid research replication and application are needed.
      • Incomplete intervention reporting is an avoidable source of research waste.
      • The TIDieR checklist can be used by researchers, registries and journal publishers to improve standardised descriptions of interventions.



      To investigate the completeness of reporting of behavioural, environmental, social and system interventions (BESSI) for reducing the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 evaluated in randomised trials, to obtain missing intervention details and to document the interventions assessed.

      Study design and setting

      We assessed completeness of reporting in randomised trials of BESSI using the Template for Intervention Description and Replication (TIDieR) checklist. Investigators were contacted to provide missing intervention details and if provided, intervention descriptions were reassessed and documented according to the TIDieR items.


      Forty-five trials (planned or complete) describing 21 educational interventions, 15 protective measures and 9 social distancing interventions were included. In 30 trials with a protocol or study report, 30% (9/30) of interventions were completely described; this increased to 53% (16/30) after contacting 24 trial investigators (11 responded). Across all interventions, intervention provider training (35%) was the most frequently incompletely described checklist item, followed by the ‘when and how much’ intervention item.


      Incomplete reporting of BESSI is a substantial problem, with essential information necessary for implementation of interventions and for building on existing knowledge frequently missing and unable to be obtained. Such reporting is an avoidable source of research waste.