Reporting and methodological quality of COVID-19 systematic reviews needs to be improved: an evidence mapping
: To assess the reporting and methodological quality of COVID-19 systematic reviews, and to analyze trends and gaps in the quality, clinical topics, author countries, and populations of the reviews using an evidence mapping approach.
Study Design and Setting
: A structured search for systematic reviews concerning COVID-19 was performed using PubMed, Embase, Cochrane Library, Campbell Library, Web of Science, CBM, WanFang Data, CNKI, and CQVIP from inception until June 2020. The quality of each review was assessed using the Assessment of Multiple Systematic Reviews 2 (AMSTAR 2) checklist and the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) checklist.
: In total, 243 systematic reviews met the inclusion criteria, over 50% of which (128, 52.7%) were from 14 developing countries, with China contributing the most reviews (76, 31.3%). In terms of methodological quality of the studies, 30 (12.3%) were of moderate quality, 63 (25.9%) were of low quality, and 150 (61.7%) were of critically low quality. In terms of reporting quality, the median (interquartile range) PRISMA score was 14 (10-18). Regarding the topics of the reviews, 24 (9.9%) focused on the prevalence of COVID-19, 69 (28.4%) focused on the clinical manifestations, 30 (12.3%) focused on etiology, 43 (17.7%) focused on diagnosis, 65 (26.7%) focused on treatment, 104 (42.8%) focused on prognosis, and 25 (10.3%) focused on prevention. These studies mainly focused on general patients with COVID-19 (161, 66.3%), followed by children (22, 9.1%) and pregnant patients (18, 7.4%).
: This study systematically evaluated the methodological and reporting quality of systematic reviews of COVID-19, summarizing and analyzing trends in their clinical topics, author countries, and study populations.
What is new?
Overall, the reporting and methodological quality of the included SRs were low, especially the methodological quality.
The methodological quality of almost all SRs related to prevalence, etiology, prognosis, prevention, and special populations (such as children and pregnant women) were assessed as being low or critically low quality. The reporting quality of SRs related to treatment, prevention, and special populations was also relatively low.
Several evidence gaps were identified and a trend analysis of the clinical topics, countries, and study populations was performed.
What this adds to what was known?
This is the first study to assess the reporting and methodological quality of COVID-19 systematic reviews.
What is the implication, what should change now?
Considering the significance of systematic reviews of COVID-19, the reporting and methodological quality of these studies should be strengthened, especially the methodological quality. It is also necessary to discuss whether conventional quality assessment tools for systematic reviews are suitable during a public health emergency.