Zika virus (ZIKV) is a mosquito-borne disease discovered in 1947, but with no reports of serious disease for almost 60 years. The first large ZIKV outbreak was reported from Yap island in 2007, then in 2015, the emergence of ZIKV in the Americas highlighted clinical manifestations such as microcephaly and Guillain‐Barré syndrome. On February 1, 2016, WHO declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern due to the magnitude of the outbreak, which then officially ended in November 2016.
Ever since the Brazilian authority released the first report of autochthonous transmission of ZIKV in 2015, it became the object of interdisciplinary investigation and global research collaboration. To follow and understand the trend of ZIKV research, we performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of ZIKV publications during 2014-2018, by using the scientific database Scopus.
We found that the number of ZIKV related publications increased in 2016, 2017, and 2018 (39.2, 56.5, and 58.5 times, respectively) compared to an average number of publications (23.5) in 2014-2015. During the five years, there was not only an increment of publication numbers but also the area of research was expanded. In 2014-2015, the majority in the research area was epidemiological research with the aims to report the consequence of the ZIKV outbreak, and the trend was shifted to the development of diagnostic methods, antiviral treatment, and vaccine in the following three years. In addition, the number of countries involved in ZIKV research increased from 11 and 13 in 2014-2015 to 59, 67, and 66 in 2016-2018, showing that ZIKV research was changed from a low-level stage to active and globalized in the coming five years.
Our results highlight the importance of gathering public interest when the world is facing the phase of global health alert, and how it can drive the research field from inactive to active. However, despite this enormous progress in ongoing ZIKV research, many questions are yet to be answered and should be addressed to accelerate the development of effective ZIKV countermeasures. Nevertheless, our systematic review and meta-analysis emphasized the importance of a worldwide multidisciplinary effort to combat outbreaks or unknown infectious disease threats in the future.