How does academia respond to the burden of infectious and parasitic disease?

Wenjing Zhao, Lili Wang, Lin Zhang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Web of Science)


BACKGROUND: Academic research is one of the main avenues through which humans can fight the threat of infectious diseases. However, there have been concerns regarding whether the academic system has provided sufficient efforts to fight infectious diseases we potentially face. Answering these questions could contribute to evidence-based recommendations for setting research priorities and third-mission policies.

METHODS: With a focus on one of the most common categories of communicable diseases, infectious and parasitic diseases (IPDs), we searched Web of Science for articles and reviews relevant to IPDs published during the period 2000-2019 and retrieved WHO data on disease burden in corresponding years. The academic response patterns were explored by IPD subcategory and by human development level (an index established by the United Nations). We conduct the analysis in particular to gain insight into the dynamic relationship between disease burden and research effort on IPDs, scientific efforts contributed by countries with different development levels, and the variation trends in international joint efforts.

RESULTS: The greatest burden of IPDs is clustered in the developing regions of Africa, but has received academic response from both developed and developing countries. Highly developed countries dominate the ranks of academic research in this area, yet there is also a clear increase in research efforts from the countries most affected, despite their low human development scale. In fact, the overall analysis reveals an improved capability for addressing local problems from African regions. In terms of international collaboration, highly developed countries such as the United States and United Kingdom have commonly collaborated with needy regions, whereas prolific but developing nations, like China, have not.

CONCLUSIONS: From a global perspective, academia has positively responded to health needs caused by IPDs. Although the relevant research output contribution is primarily from the highly developed countries, concentrated and specialized efforts from the undeveloped regions to ease their local burden can be clearly observed. Our findings also indicate a tendency to focus more on local health needs for both developed and undeveloped regions. The insights revealed in this study should benefit a more informed and systemic plan of research priorities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number89
Number of pages27
JournalHealth Research Policy and Systems
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2022


  • China
  • Communicable Diseases
  • Cost of Illness
  • Humans
  • Parasitic Diseases
  • Publications
  • Infectious and parasitic diseases (IPDs)
  • Academic research
  • Disease burden
  • DALYs
  • Response patterns

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