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Scientific and technological contributions of Latin America and Caribbean countries to the Zika virus outbreak

Background: The recent Zika virus (ZIKAV) epidemics disclosed a major public health threat and a scientific and technological (S&T) challenge. The lessons learned from the S&T response of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) countries are critical to inform further research and guide scientific investments. The present study aimed to assess how new S&T knowledge produced and disseminated regionally can contribute to address global health challenges. Methods: Scientometric and social network analysis methods were used to assess the LAC scientific contribution and potential technological development on ZIKAV up to December 2017. ZIKAV-related publications were retrieved from the Web of Science, Scopus, and PubMed databases. Regionally published articles were obtained from SciELO (Scientific Electronic Library Online) and LILACS (Literature in the Health Sciences in Latin America and the Caribbean) databases. Patent registries were retrieved using Orbit Intelligence and Derwent Innovation. Records from each database were individually downloaded, integrated, standardized and analyzed. Results: We retrieved 5421 ZIKAV-related publications, revealing a sharp increase from 2015 onwards. LAC countries accounted for 20% of all publications and Brazil was among the top three most central countries in the global network for ZIKAV research. A total of 274 patent families backed up by experimental evidence were retrieved. Only 5% were filed by LAC assignees, all of them based in Brazil. The largest contribution of LAC research was on the clinical manifestations of the ZIKAV infection, along with vector control, which was also the main focus of patents. Conclusions: Our analysis offered a comprehensive overview of ZIKAV’s research and development and showed that (i) LAC countries had a key role in generating and disseminating scientific knowledge on ZIKAV; (ii) LAC countries have expressively contributed to research on ZIKAV clinical manifestations; (iii) the Brazilian scientific community was potentially very effective in knowledge sharing and diffusion in the ZIKAV research network; (iv) Brazil was the single LAC country filing patents, mostly represented by independent inventors and low-tech patents. The paper advocates the need for a continued interdisciplinary approach to improve LAC countries ability to prevent, prepare for and control future outbreaks.

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  • Silva, Alice Machado
  • Guindalini, Camila
  • Fonseca, Fernanda Lopes
  • Silva, Marcus Vinicius Pereira
  • Fonseca, Bruna de Paula