The East African region is endemic with multiple zoonotic diseases and is one of the hotspots for emerging infectious zoonotic diseases with reported multiple outbreaks of epidemic diseases such as Ebola, Marburg and Rift Valley Fever. Here we present a systematic assessment of published research on zoonotic diseases in the region and thesis research in Kenya to understand the regional research focus and trends in publications, and estimate proportion of theses research transitioning to peer-reviewed journal publications.
We searched PubMed, Google Scholar and African Journals Online databases for publications on 36 zoonotic diseases identified to have occurred in the East Africa countries of Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda, for the period between 1920 and 2017. We searched libraries and queried online repositories for masters and PhD theses on these diseases produced between 1970 and 2016 in five universities and two research institutions in Kenya.
We identified 771 journal articles on 22, and 168 theses on 21 of the 36 zoonotic diseases investigated. Research on zoonotic diseases increased exponentially with the last 10 years of our study period contributing more than half of all publications 460 (60%) and theses 102 (61%) retrieved. Endemic diseases were the most studied accounting for 656 (85%) and 150 (89%) of the publication and theses studies respectively, with publications on epidemic diseases associated with outbreaks reported in the region or elsewhere. Epidemiological studies were the most common study types but limited to cross-sectional studies while socio-economics were the least studied. Only 11% of the theses research transitioned to peer-review publications, taking an average of 2.5 years from theses production to manuscript publication.
Our findings demonstrate increased attention to zoonotic diseases in East Africa but reveal the need to expand the scope, focus and quality of studies to adequately address the public health, social and economic threats posed by zoonoses.