The proportion of pathogenic microorganisms in the microbial world is relatively small, while their threat to human health, economic development and social stability is severe. The quantity and variation of Science Citation Index (SCI) literature related to pathogenic microorganisms may reflect the level of relevant research and the degree of attention. Here we compared trends in the quantity and variety of SCI literature relating to certain important pathogenic microorganisms published by scientists from United States and China from 1996 to 2010 by searching the Science Citation Index database. The pathogenic microorganisms in this study comprise two categories of pathogens: Bacillus anthracis, Yersinia pestis, Francisella tularensis, Ebola virus, Burkholderia pseudomallei, which belong to biodefense-associated pathogens (BDAPs) and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), SARS coronavirus, hepatitis B virus (HBV), Mycobacterium tuberculosis, influenza virus, which belong to the commonly encountered health-threatening pathogens. Our results showed that the United States (US) published much more SCI literature on these pathogens than China. Furthermore, literature on BDAPs published by scientists from the US has increased sharply since 2002. However, the numbers of literature relating to CEHTPs from China has demonstrated a gradual increase from 1996 to 2010. Research into pathogenic microorganisms requires three balance to be achieved: investment in BDAP and CEHTP studies; basic and applied research; a faster pace of research into pathogens and fulfilling biosafety and biosecurity requirements.
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