Letters to the editor on the Zika virus: a bibliometric analysis

Frances A. Delwiche


Objective: To conduct a bibliometric analysis of Letters to the Editor published on the Zika virus from 1952–2018.

Methods: A PubMed search was conducted using the terms (Zika OR ZIKV). Results were limited to 1952–2018 and Publication Type = Letter. Results were exported to EndNote, and the full text of each Letter examined. Each Letter was assigned to one of five categories: Reader Response, Author Reply, Observation, Case Report, or Research. Additional study parameters included number of authors, number of references, use of graphics, and funding. Citation reports were generated for each category and the entire dataset, producing lists sorted by Times Cited.

Results: Of 499 Letters, only 15 (3.0%) were published before 2016. In 2016, at the height of the Zika virus epidemic in the Americas, 244 (48.9%) Letters were published, dropping to 145 (29.1%) in 2017 and 95 (19.0%) in 2018. Letters included 149 (29.9%) Reader Responses, 56 (11.2%) Author Replies, 112 (22.4%) Observations, 70 (14.0%) Case Reports, and 112 (22.4%) Research. The Letters were written by 1–35 authors; 369 (74.0%) Letters had 1–5 authors, and 130 (26.0%) had 6 or more. The Letters cited 0–63 references, with an average of 7.0 per Letter. Graphics appeared in 192 (38.5%) Letters, and 77 (15.4%) Letters reported funding. An interesting anomaly was the 104 (20.8%) Letters authored or co-authored by 1 individual.

Conclusion: Letters to the Editor remain an important component of scientific communication and may serve as a valuable source of clinical and research information. 


bibliometrics; bibliometric analysis; Letters to the Editor

Full Text:



Wiwanitkit V. Risk prevention key in tackling Zika virus. Nurs Older People. 2016;28(7):15. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7748/nop.28.7.15.s20.

Stephen P, Lin SX. RNA-dependent RNA polymerase: addressing Zika outbreak by a phylogeny-based drug target study. Chem Biol Drug Des. 2018;91(1):322-7. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cbdd.13054.

Falavarjani KG, Kashkouli MB, Chams H. Letter to editor, a scientific forum for discussion. J Curr Ophthalmol. 2016;28(1):1-2. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.joco.2016.01.006.

Sturpe D, Kolar C, Janke K. Enhancing scholarly dialogue: inviting letters to the editor. Curr Pharm Teach Lear. 2016;8(3):269-70. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cptl.2016.02.021.

Peh WC, Ng KH. Writing a letter to the editor. Singapore Med J. 2010;51(7):532-5.

Kearney MH. Write to me please: the scholarly importance of letters to the editor. Res Nurs Health. 2015;38(5):327-9. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/nur.21677.

Dotson B. Writing a letter to the editor. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2013;70(2):96-7. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2146/ajhp120423.

Tierney E, O'Rourke C, Fenton JE. What is the role of 'the letter to the editor'? Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2015;272(9):2089-93. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00405-014-3289-7.

Baethge C, Seger G. Our readers' voice. letters to the editor are an important component of the discussion of scientific articles, in Deutsches Arzteblatt as in other journals, our correspondence pages reflect a diversity of opinion thanks to the love of debate among our readers—and thanks to a few rules. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2009;106(12):207-9. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3238/arztebl.2009.0207.

Kastner M, Menon A, Straus SE, Laupacis A. What do letters to the editor publish about randomized controlled trials? A cross-sectional study. BMC Res Notes. 2013;6:414. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1756-0500-6-414.

Maric C, Harris PJ, Alcorn D. Notice of retraction of article. Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 2004;31(9):657-8. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1440-1681.2004.04047.x.

O'Connor P. Changes in renal medullary volume account for the relationship between arterial pressure and renal medullary interstitial cell lipid granule content. Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 2004;31(9):658; author reply 7. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1440-1681.2004.04046.x.

Lin A, Satsukawa T, Wang M, Asl ZM, Fueta R. Retraction. Science. 2019;364(6439):444. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aax6803.

Kirsch M. Letters to the editor: competition or search for truth? Am J Gastroenterol. 2008;103(7):1596-7. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1572-0241.2007.01685.x.

Anstey A. Letters to the editor: time for more scholarly debate. Br J Dermatol. 2014;171(1):1-2. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bjd.13134.

Frew JW, Anstey A. BJD research letters: concise, thought provoking and of general interest. Br J Dermatol. 2018;178(2):309-10. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bjd.16162.

Zylke JW. Research letters in JAMA: small but mighty. JAMA. 2013;310(6):589-90. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.2013.8102.

British Journal of Dermatology. Author Guidelines. [Internet] Wiley Online Library; 2019 [cited 16 Oct 2019]. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/page/journal/13652133/homepage/forauthors.html.

Rutkowski JL, Dohan Ehrenfest DM. Evolving from clinical case reports to clinical case letters: a new direction for the Journal of Oral Implantology. J Oral Implantol. 2011;37(6):629-32. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1563/1548-1336-37.6.629.

Rutkowski JL, Dohan Ehrenfest DM. Research letters: a new editorial format for the rapid disclosure of innovative data and concepts, didactic demonstrations, and scientific discussions. J Oral Implantol. 2012;38(2):101-3. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1563/AAID-JOI-D-12-Editorial.3802.

International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Recommendations for the conduct, reporting, editing, and publication of scholarly work in medical journals [Internet]. The Committeee; 2018 [cited 27 Nov 2019]. http://www.icmje.org/recommendations/.

American College of Physicians. Annals of Internal Medicine: information for authors 2019. [Internet] The College; 2019 [cited 24 Oct 2019]. https://annals.org/aim/pages/authors.

Cappell MS. Is lumping peer-reviewed case reports together with non-peer-reviewed comments for publication as letters to the editor appropriate? Am J Gastroenterol. 2010;105(8):1901; author reply -2. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ajg.2010.219.

Moayyedi P. Response to Cappell. Am J Gastroenterol. 2010;105(8):1901-2.

Edwards R, White M, Gray J, Fischbacher C. Use of a journal club and letter-writing exercise to teach critical appraisal to medical undergraduates. Med Educ. 2001;35(7):691-4. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2923.2001.00972.x.

Kallen AJ, Wilson CT, Russell MA, Larson RJ, Davies L, Sirovich BE, et al. Group writing of letters to the editor as the goal of journal club. JAMA. 2006;296(9):1053-4. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.296.9.1053.

Boyton RJ, Arnold PC. An audit of the BMJ's correspondence columns. BMJ. 1990;301(6766):1419-20. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.301.6766.1419.

Caswell A. Letters to the editor 1991. An audit of the MJA's correspondence columns. Med J Aust. 1992;157(1):63-4.

Rosell Pradas J, Lacasana Navarro M. [Frequency and characteristics of letters to the editor published in Farmacia Hospitalaria (1995-2006)]. Farm Hosp. 2007;31(3):156-60.

Spodick DH, Goldberg RJ. The editor's correspondence: analysis of patterns appearing in selected specialty and general journals. Am J Cardiol. 1983;52(10):1290-2. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0002-9149(83)90590-8.

Von Elm E, Wandel S, Jüni P. The role of correspondence sections in post-publication peer review: a bibliometric study of general and internal medicine journals. Scientometrics. 2009 Dec 1;81(3):747-55.

Horton R. Postpublication criticism and the shaping of clinical knowledge. JAMA. 2002;287(21):2843-7. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.287.21.2843.

Gotzsche PC, Delamothe T, Godlee F, Lundh A. Adequacy of authors' replies to criticism raised in electronic letters to the editor: cohort study. BMJ. 2010;341:c3926. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c3926.

Anthony MJ, Barkell NP. Nurses' professional concerns: letters to the editor for 1900-2005. J Prof Nurs. 2008;24(2):96-104. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.profnurs.2007.06.009.

Yang C, Srinivasan P, Polgreen PM. Automatic adverse drug events detection using letters to the editor. AMIA Annu Symp Proc. 2012;2012:1030-9.

Chauhan DN, Wilkes SR, Ratib S, Doney E, Batchelor JM, Rogers NK, et al. Risk of bias does not differ between full papers and letters reporting dermatological randomized controlled trials. Br J Dermatol. 2016;175(1):210-1. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bjd.14455.

Ramos JM, Gutierrez F, Masia M, Martin-Hidalgo A. Publication of European Union research on infectious diseases (1991-2001): a bibliometric evaluation. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2004;23(3):180-4. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10096-003-1074-4.

Ramos JM, Masia M, Padilla S, Gutierrez F. A bibliometric overview of infectious diseases research in European countries (2002-2007). Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2009;28(6):713-6. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10096-008-0691-3.

Rethlefsen ML, Wallis LC. Public health citation patterns: an analysis of the American Journal of Public Health, 2003-2005. J Med Libr Assoc. 2007;95(4):408-15. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3163/1536-5050.95.4.408.

Rethlefsen ML, Livinski AA. Infectious diseases citation patterns: mapping the literature 2008-2010. J Med Libr Assoc. 2013;101(1):55-62. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3163/1536-5050.101.1.009.

Delwiche FA. Bibliometric analysis of scholarly publications on the Zika virus, 1952–2016. Science & Technology Libraries. 2018;37(2):113-29. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0194262X.2018.1431589.

Albuquerque PC, Castro MJ, Santos-Gandelman J, Oliveira AC, Peralta JM, Rodrigues ML. Bibliometric indicators of the Zika outbreak. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2017;11(1):e0005132. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0005132.

Machado-Silva A, Guindalini C, Fonseca FL, Pereira-Silva MV, Fonseca BP. Scientific and technological contributions of Latin America and Caribbean countries to the Zika virus outbreak. BMC Public Health. 2019;19(1):530. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-6842-x.

Martinez-Pulgarin DF, Acevedo-Mendoza WF, Cardona-Ospina JA, Rodriguez-Morales AJ, Paniz-Mondolfi AE. A bibliometric analysis of global Zika research. Travel Med Infect Dis. 2016;14(1):55-7. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tmaid.2015.07.005.

Oliveira JF, Pescarini JM, Rodrigues MS, Almeida BA, Henriques CMP, Gouveia FC, et al. The global scientific research response to the public health emergency of Zika virus infection. PLoS One. 2020;15(3):e0229790. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0229790.

Singh N. Scientometric analysis of research on Zika virus. Virusdisease. 2016;27(3):303-6. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s13337-016-0339-3.

Vera-Polania F, Munoz-Urbano M, Banol-Giraldo AM, Jimenez-Rincon M, Granados-Alvarez S, Rodriguez-Morales AJ. Bibliometric assessment of scientific production of literature on chikungunya. J Infect Public Health. 2015;8(4):386-8. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jiph.2015.03.006.

Mota FB, Fonseca B, Galina AC, Silva RMD. Mapping the dengue scientific landscape worldwide: a bibliometric and network analysis. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz. 2017;112(5):354-63. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0074-02760160423.

Zyoud SH. Dengue research: a bibliometric analysis of worldwide and Arab publications during 1872-2015. Virol J. 2016;13:78. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12985-016-0534-2.

Culquichicon C, Cardona-Ospina JA, Patino-Barbosa AM, Rodriguez-Morales AJ. Bibliometric analysis of Oropouche research: impact on the surveillance of emerging arboviruses in Latin America. F1000Res. 2017;6:194. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.10936.2.

Ortiz-Martinez Y, Villamil-Gomez WE, Rodriguez-Morales AJ. Bibliometric assessment of global research on Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis: a latent threat for the Americas. Travel Med Infect Dis. 2017;15:78-9. doi:10.1016/j.tmaid.2016.09.003.

Zhai F, Zhai Y, Cong C, Song T, Xiang R, Feng T, et al. Research Progress of Coronavirus Based on Bibliometric Analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(11). DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17113766.

Lou J, Tian SJ, Niu SM, Kang XQ, Lian HX, Zhang LX, et al. Coronavirus disease 2019: a bibliometric analysis and review. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2020;24(6):3411-21. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.26355/eurrev_202003_20712.

De Felice F, Polimeni A. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): a machine learning bibliometric analysis. In Vivo. 2020;34(3 Suppl):1613-7. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21873/invivo.11951.

National Library of Medicine. MEDLINE®: description of the database [Internet] [cited 10 July 2020] https://www.nlm.nih.gov/bsd/medline.html.

Campos GS, Bandeira AC, Sardi SI. Zika Virus Outbreak, Bahia, Brazil. Emerg Infect Dis. 2015;21(10):1885-6. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2110.150847.

Dimitroulis G. Getting published in peer-reviewed journals. Int J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2011;40(12):1342-5. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijom.2011.11.012.

Hopewell S, McDonald S, Clarke M, Egger M. Grey literature in meta-analyses of randomized trials of health care interventions. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007(2):Mr000010. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/14651858.MR000010.pub3.

Liesegang TJ. Peer review should continue after publication. Am J Ophthalmol. 2010;149(3):359-60. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajo.2009.11.015.

Neghina R, Neghina AM. How to build a scientific publishing career based on hundreds of letters-to-the-editor: "The Art of Loss". Account Res. 2011;18(4):247-9. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08989621.2011.584761.

Arsuaga M, Bujalance SG, Diaz-Menendez M, Vazquez A, Arribas JR. Probable sexual transmission of Zika virus from a vasectomised man. Lancet Infect Dis. 2016;16(10):1107. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s1473-3099(16)30320-6.

Castanha PMS, Nascimento EJM, Braga C, Cordeiro MT, de Carvalho OV, de Mendonca LR, et al. Enhancement of Zika infection by dengue-specific antibodies does not alter the production of Interleukin 6 in Fc?RII-expressing K562 Cells. J Infect Dis. 2017;216(5):614-5. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jix346.

Campos AGM, Lira RPC, Arantes TEF. Response: Macular atrophy and Zika virus infection. Arq Bras Oftalmol. 2017;80(2):137. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5935/0004-2749.20170033.

Ventura CV, Maia M, Ventura BV, Linden VVD, Araujo EB, Ramos RC, et al. Response Letter: Serological Evidence Confirms the Presumed Diagnosis of Zika Virus Congenital Infection in infants with Microcephaly and Ocular Findings. Arq Bras Oftalmol. 2016;79(4):280.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jmla.2021.903


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2021 Frances A. Delwiche

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.