Malaria research in Malawi from 1984 to 2016 : a literature review and bibliometric analysis

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 3
  • Abstract:

    BACKGROUND : Malaria research can play a vital role in addressing the malaria burden in Malawi. An organized approach in addressing malaria in Malawi started in 1984 by the establishment of the first National Malaria Control Programme and research was recognized to be significant. This study aimed to assess the type and amount of malaria research conducted in Malawi from 1984 to 2016 and its related source of funding. METHODS : A systematic literature search was conducted in the Medline/PubMed database for Malawian publications and approved malaria studies from two Ethical Committees were examined. Bibliometric analysis was utilized to capture the affiliations of first and senior/last authors, funding acknowledgements, while titles, abstracts and accessed full text were examined for research type. RESULTS : A total of 483 publications and 165 approved studies were analysed. Clinical and basic research in the fields of malaria in pregnancy 105 (21.5%), severe malaria 97 (20.1%) and vector and/or agent dynamics 69 (14.3%) dominated in the publications while morbidity 33 (20%), severe malaria 28 (17%) and Health Policy and Systems Research 24 (14.5%) dominated in the approved studies. In the publications, 146 (30%) first authors and 100 (21%) senior authors, and 88 (53.3%) principal investigators in approved studies were affiliated to Malawian-based institutions. Most researchers were affiliated to the Malawi-Liverpool Wellcome Trust, College of Medicine, Blantyre Malaria Project, Ministry of Health, and Malaria Alert Centre. The major malaria research funders were the National Institute for Health/ USA, Wellcome Trust and the US Agency for International Development. Only three (2.5%) out of 118 journals publishing research on malaria in Malawi were from Africa and the Malaria Journal, with 76 (15.7%) publications, published most of the research from Malawi, followed by the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene with 57 (11.8%) in comparison to only 13 (2.7%) published in the local Malawi Medical Journal. CONCLUSIONS : Clinical and basic research, which is mostly funded externally, in the fields of malaria in pregnancy, severe malaria and vector and/or agent dynamics dominated, while health policy and system research was least supported. The quantity may reflect scientific research activity but the initial primary impact is contribution to policy development.