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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

versión On-line ISSN 2078-5135
versión impresa ISSN 0256-9574

SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. vol.112 no.5 Pretoria may. 2022 



COVID-19 in the South African Medical Journal



The novel virus causing COVID-19 disease, SARS-CoV-2, has had a considerable impact on all major aspects of human life. The pandemic has mobilised the global scientific community to respond to these unprecedented medical and non-medical consequences. In view of the implications of coronavirus disease in global societies, professionals and experts have been working around the clock to produce specialised evidence-based knowledge.

Numerous scientific studies have been published examining the knowledge generated globally[1-3] and as the result of more localised efforts.[4,5] Such studies have assisted in identifying and evaluating existing research, conducted at the beginning of the pandemic, to guide the development of further advanced studies.

The current scientometric and bibliometric studies focusing on COVID-19 indicate that China, the USA, the UK and Italy are leading research in the biomedical field.[1,6] However, many other countries and regions are also reporting relevant findings. Several countries on the African continent are conducting studies analysing the indicators of COVID-19 publication output and collaboration,[5,7,8] and there have been systematic reviews focusing on the mental health of the general adult population in Africa.[9,10]

Despite clear evidence to the contrary, there are still reports discussing Africa's limited contributions towards expanding scientific knowledge on COVID-19. The northern and southern regions of Africa account for more than 65% of the COVID-19 research generated on the continent. South Africa (SA) is highlighted as the country with the highest number of publications, closely followed by Egypt and Nigeria. SA plays a central role in the African scientific field, in view of its ability to partner with many other African countries to produce intra-regional collaborative research.[8] Moreover, the majority of the African studies addressing COVID-19 are being published in the Pan African Medical Journal (PAMJ) and the South African Medical Journal (SAMJ).[5]

During the years 2020 and 2021, SAMJ published several different types of articles discussing various aspects of COVID-19 and reporting research in fields impacted by it (Table 1). Correspondence (letters to the Editor), editorials and guest editorials, research articles, reviews and articles in the 'In Practice' section were the sections containing most of the material on COVID-19, with some CPD questions being based on these articles.

Looking into the SAMJ publications, it must be said that the journal made significant progress in disseminating research on COVID-19,[11] despite its initial sceptical position[12] when SAMJ mentioned COVID-19 for the first time in the March 2020 issue - the same month that the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.

During 2020, SAMJ emphasised the following themes related to COVID-19: management and control of the pandemic, focusing on quarantine/isolation/social distance rules and guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, as well as government efforts and responses; implications of COVID-19 for the healthcare system and hospitals; and its effects on healthcare professionals. Research in healthcare covered the wellbeing of healthcare workers, concerns related to healthcare occupational hazards, shortages of healthcare personnel, and the negative effects of the disease on people with pre-existing health conditions (e.g. diabetes, malaria, tuberculosis and HIV). Other topics included collateral damage caused by the pandemic in terms of its effect on pregnant women and children's learning. Skin reactions due to the use of alcohol-based hand hygiene products was also a theme.

As the pandemic continued in 2021, SAMJ diversified the type of published studies, placing increased focus on COVID-19 vaccines and addressing fair and equitable access, efficacy, and the behavioural determinants towards vaccination. The June 2021 issue contained a comprehensive list of articles on various aspects of COVID-19 vaccines. Appropriately, this issue coincided with the initial phases of the vaccination programme at the national level in SA.[13] During this same time, SAMJ published several articles discussing the findings of drug treatments (corticosteroids, ivermectin and chloroquine) used to fight COVID-19.

Furthermore, SAMJ prioritised the publication of studies exploring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in specific medical fields including rheumatology, traumatology, oncology and surgery. The themes of coronavirus transmission and the burnout of front-line healthcare professionals received important attention, as did the ongoing challenges to provide healthcare and hospital management during the pandemic. Still in the medical area, although broader in scope, the publications focused on the medical problems caused by COVID-19 disease, such as pulmonary embolism, and its effect in childhood asthma and obesity. Research on coronavirus disease and pregnant women, as well as HIV and tuberculosis, appeared a few times in the journal.

The predominant types of publications were short articles (letters to the Editor) and reports acknowledging SA healthcare policy, practice and research in the medical field. These studies addressed distinct aspects of COVID-19 using accessible language for professionals, specialists and lay audiences. Editorial articles also played a key role, examining a broad range of topics related to the pandemic. SAMJ has been demonstrating its ongoing commitment to advance the knowledge on COVID-19, publishing relevant studies in the categories 'In Practice' and 'Research'. It is important to note that most of the authors of the studies published in the journal are originally from SA and other African countries. We hope that this work gains global visibility, demonstrating the progress made on the African continent in generating vitally important scientific research on COVID-19, and SAMJ's critical position in disseminating this knowledge and the findings of these studies.

Miguel Gallegos

Universidad Católica del Maule, Chile; Pontificia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais, Brazil; Universidad Nacional de Rosario, Argentina; Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, Argentina

Viviane de Castro Pecanha

Department Chair, International Psychology, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (Online campus), USA

Tomás Caycho-Rodríguez

Universidad Privada del Norte, Peru

Mauricio Cervigni, Pablo Martino

Universidad Nacional de Rosario, Argentina; Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, Argentina

Anastasia Razumovskiy

Arizona College of Nursing, USA

Miguel Barboza-Palomino

Universidad Privada del Norte, Peru



1. López-López W, Salas G, Vega-Arce M, Cornejo-Araya CA, Barboza-Palomino M, Ho Y-S. Publications on COVID-19 in high impact factor journals: A bibliometric analysis. Univ Psychol 2020;19:1-12.        [ Links ]

2. Malekpour MR, Abbasi-Kangevari M, Azadnajafabad S, et al. How the scientific community responded to the COVID-19 pandemic: A subject-level time-trend bibliometric analysis. PLoS ONE 2021;16(9):e0258064.        [ Links ]

3. O'Brien N, Barboza-Palomino M, Ventura-León J, et al. Nuevo coronavirus (Covid-19): Un análisis bibliométrico [Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): A bibliometric analysis]. Rev Chil Anest 2020;49(3):408-415.        [ Links ]

4. Gallegos M, Cervigni M, Consoli A, et al. COVID-19 in Latin America: A bibliometric analysis of scientific publications in health. Electron J Gen Med 2020;17(6):em261.        [ Links ]

5. Mbogning Fonkou MD, Bragazzi NL, Tsinda EK, Bouba Y, Mmbando GS, Kong JD. COVID-19 pandemic related research in Africa: Bibliometric analysis of scholarly output, collaborations and scientific leadership. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2021;18(14):7273.        [ Links ]

6. Abd-Alrazaq A, Schneider J, Mifsud B, et al. A comprehensive overview of the COVID-19 literature: Machine learning-based bibliometric analysis. J Med Internet Res 2021;23(3):e23703.        [ Links ]

7. Guleid FH, Oyando R, Kabia E, Mumbi A, Akech S, Barasa E. A bibliometric analysis of COVID-19 research in Africa. BMJ Glob Health 2021;6(5):e005690.        [ Links ]

8. Kana MA, LaPorte R, Jaye A. Africa's contribution to the science of the COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. BMJ Glob Health 2021;6(3):e004059.        [ Links ]

9. Chen J, Farah N, Dong RK, et al. Mental health during the COVID-19 crisis in Africa: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2021;18(20):10604.        [ Links ]

10. Zhang SX, Chen J. Scientific evidence on mental health in key regions under the COVID-19 pandemic - meta-analytical evidence from Africa, Asia, China, Eastern Europe, Latin America, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Spain. Eur J Psychotraumatol 2021;12(1):2001192.        [ Links ]

11. Farham B. Eating my words. S Afr Med J 2020;110(4):257.        [ Links ]

12. Farham B. "More dangerous than terrorism' - the media versus the facts. S Afr Med J 2020;110(3):169.        [ Links ]

13. Moodley K, Blockman M, Pienaar D, et al. Hard choices: Ethical challenges in phase 1 of COVID-19 vaccine roll-out in South Africa. S Afr Med J 2021;111(6):554-558.        [ Links ]

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