The state of asthma epidemiology: an overview of systematic reviews and their quality
BACKGROUND There is a substantial body of evidence on the epidemiology of allergic conditions, which has advanced the understanding of these conditions. We aimed to systematically identify systematic reviews and meta-analyses on the epidemiology of allergic diseases to assess what has been studied comprehensively and what areas might benefit from further research. METHODS We searched PubMed and EMBASE up to 12/2014 for systematic reviews on epidemiological research on allergic diseases. We indexed diseases and topics covered and extracted data on the search characteristics of each systematic review. RESULTS The search resulted in 3991 entries after removing duplicates, plus 20 other items found via references and conference abstracts; 421 systematic reviews were relevant and included in this overview. The majority contained some evidence on asthma (72.9%). Allergic rhinitis, atopic eczema and food hypersensitivity were covered in 15.7%, 24.5% and 9.0%, respectively. Commonly studied risk factors for atopic eczema included dietary and microbial factors, while for asthma, pollution and genetic factors were often investigated in systematic reviews. There was some indication of differing search characteristics across topics. CONCLUSION We present a comprehensive overview with an indexed database of published systematic reviews in allergy epidemiology. We believe that this clarifies where most research interest has focussed and which areas could benefit from further research. We propose that this effort is updated every few years to include the most recently published evidence and to extend the search to an even broader list of hypersensitivity/allergic disorders.