Northern, Southern African nations lead continent in cardiovascular research

April 7, 2015 – The DCRI’s Gerald Bloomfield, MD, MPH, and colleagues examined the research output of 52 African countries from 1999 to 2008.

Despite a sizeable and growing trend of cardiovascular disease throughout Africa, cardiovascular research from the continent remains low compared with other regions, a new study has found.

The study, led by the DCRI’s Gerald Bloomfield, MD, MPH, also found that most of the cardiovascular research coming out of Africa is concentrated in a few countries in the north and south. The study appears in the April 2 issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association.

gerald-bloomfield-newsTo date, information about trends in cardiovascular research in Africa has been limited. As cardiovascular disease is already the leading cause of death for African adults older than 30 years of age, and the burden of cardiovascular disease is expected to double between 2005 and 2030, medical research is essential to planning care strategies for disease prevention and treatment on the continent.

To obtain a clearer picture of trends in cardiovascular research across Africa, Bloomfield and his colleagues created a tool to capture cardiovascular articles published in the Thomson Reuters Web of Knowledge database between 1999 and 2008. These records were then matched with five-year citation reports. Using author addresses, the researchers identified which articles came from Africa.

From the initial list of 456,120 publications, Bloomfield and his colleagues removed duplicates and cross-referenced citation reports to arrive at a final list of 430,712 cardiovascular articles. They found that African nations generally published fewer articles than most other nations, but the increase in publications over time mirrored trends elsewhere in the world.

The researchers also discovered that there were important regional differences in research productivity, with most publications coming from the northern and southern parts of Africa. South Africa published 872 cardiovascular research papers, Egypt 393, Tunisia 264, and Nigeria 192. As Bloomfield and his colleagues noted, Northern Africa is home to the two oldest degree‐awarding universities in the world (University of Al‐Karaouine in Morocco, est. 859, and Al‐Azhar University in Egypt, est. 970 or 972), and many of Africa’s other universities are located in Northern or Southern Africa. In other parts of the continent, ongoing armed conflicts and the concomitant brain drain may contribute to relatively low rates of research productivity.

African publications are also cited at a much lower rate than many other cardiovascular articles. Of the 52 African nations included in the study’s analysis, 45 had at least one year when the 5‐year citation index was zero. Citations of publications with some African authors represent less than 1 percent of global cardiovascular research citations, the researchers noted.

Finally, the researchers found that nations with the highest rates of death due to HIV infection tended to have lower rates of cardiovascular publications, suggesting that competing public health priorities may affect research productivity.