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01.12.2017 | Research | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

Clinical and Translational Allergy 1/2017

The state of asthma epidemiology: an overview of systematic reviews and their quality

Clinical and Translational Allergy > Ausgabe 1/2017
Jon Genuneit, Annina M. Seibold, Christian J. Apfelbacher, George N. Konstantinou, Jennifer J. Koplin, Stefania La Grutta, Kirsty Logan, Carsten Flohr, Michael R. Perkin, for the Task Force “Overview of Systematic Reviews in Allergy Epidemiology (OSRAE)” of the EAACI Interest Group on Epidemiology
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​s13601-017-0146-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Recently, we have published an overview of systematic reviews in allergy epidemiology and identified asthma as the most commonly reviewed allergic disease. Building on this work, we aimed to investigate the quality of systematic reviews in asthma using the AMSTAR checklist and to provide a reference for future, more in-depth assessment of the extent of previous knowledge.


We included all 307 systematic reviews indexed with asthma, including occupational asthma, and/or wheeze from our previous search in PubMed and EMBASE up to December 2014 for systematic reviews on epidemiological research on allergic diseases. Topics of the included systematic reviews were indexed and we applied the AMSTAR checklist for methodological quality to all. Statistical analyses include description of lower and upper bounds of AMSTAR scores and variation across publication time and topics.


Of 43 topics catalogued, family history, birth weight, and feeding of formula were only covered once in systematic reviews published from 2011 onwards. Overall, at least one meta-analysis was conducted for all topics except for “social determinants”, “perinatal”, “birth weight”, and “climate”. AMSTAR quality scores were significantly higher in more recently published systematic reviews, in those with meta-analysis, and in Cochrane reviews. There was evidence of variation of quality across topics even, after accounting for these characteristics. Genetic factors in asthma development were often covered by systematic reviews with some evidence of unsubstantiated updates or repetition.


We present a comprehensive overview with an indexed database of published systematic reviews in asthma epidemiology including quality scores. We highlight some topics including active smoking and pets, which should be considered for future systematic reviews. We propose that our search strategy and database could be a basis for topic-specific overviews of systematic reviews in asthma epidemiology.
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