Open Access Open Badges Correspondence

Trends in scientific activity addressing transmissible spongiform encephalopathies: a bibliometric study covering the period 1973–2002

Elías Sanz-Casado1, Margarita Ramírez-de Santa Pau2*, Carlos A Suárez-Balseiro3, Isabel Iribarren-Maestro1 and Jesús de Pedro-Cuesta4

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratory of Information Metric Studies (LEMI) – Library Science and Documentation Department. Carlos III University of Madrid. Madrid 126, 28903 Getafe, Spain

2 Spanish Network for Cooperative Research in Neurological Diseases (CIEN) and Spanish Network for Cooperative Research in Epidemiology and Public Health (RCESP). Carlos III Institute of Health. Sinesio Delgado 6, 28029 Madrid, Spain

3 Observatorio de Estudios Relacionados con la Información (OERI). School of Information Science and Technologies. Puerto Rico University, Recinto de Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico

4 Applied Epidemiology Department. National Center of Epidemiology. Carlos III Institute of Health. Sinesio Delgado 6, 28029 Madrid, Spain

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BMC Public Health 2006, 6:245  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-245

Published: 6 October 2006



The purpose of this study is to analyse the trends in scientific research on transmissible spongiform encephalopathies by applying bibliometric tools to the scientific literature published between 1973 and 2002.


The data for the study were obtained from Medline database, in order to determine the volume of scientific output in the above period, the countries involved, the type of document and the trends in the subject matters addressed. The period 1973–2002 was divided in three sub-periods.


We observed a significant growth in scientific production. The percentage of increase is 871.7 from 1973 to 2002. This is more evident since 1991 and particularly in the 1996–2001 period. The countries found to have the highest output were the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, France and Germany. The evolution in the subject matters was almost constant in the three sub-periods in which the study was divided. In the first and second sub-periods, the subject matters of greatest interest were more general, i.e Nervous system or Nervous system diseases, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Scrapie, and Chemicals and Drugs, but in the last sub-period, some changes were observed because the Prion-related matters had the greatest presence.

Collaboration among authors is small from 1973 to 1992, but increases notably in the third sub-period, and also the number of authors and clusters formed. Some of the authors, like Gajdusek or Prusiner, appear in the whole period.


The study reveals a very high increase in scientific production. It is related also with the beginnings of research on bovine spongiform encephalopathy and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, with the establishment of progressive collaboration relationships and a reflection of public health concerns about this problem.