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An Official Publication of the Indian Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathologists

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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 24  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 446-450

Effect of COVID19 on oral research in Indian scenario: An observation

1 Department of Oral Pathology, RUHS College of Dental Sciences, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
2 Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Kalinga Institute of Dental Sciences, KIIT Deemed to be University, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India

Date of Submission12-Oct-2020
Date of Acceptance25-Nov-2020
Date of Web Publication09-Jan-2021

Correspondence Address:
Abikshyeet Panda
Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Kalinga Institute of Dental Sciences, KIIT Deemed to be University, Bhubaneswar - 751 024, Odisha
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jomfp.jomfp_480_20

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COVID-19 pandemic is an event to remember; it has unequivocally affected every part of our lives both ways. It has opened up numerous research areas with abundant funding opportunities and avenues; oral research is just a small part of this research world. In this review, we look into oral research in the COVID-19 era and India's position in COVID-19 research. The salient features of the National Guidelines for Ethics Committee Reviewing Biomedical and Health Research during the COVID-19 pandemic have been described. Some possible research topics in dentistry during COVID-19 and the need for the impetus to the dental community for oral research have been discussed.

Keywords: COVID-19, Indian Council of Medical Research, oral research, research grants

How to cite this article:
Sundaragiri KS, Panda A. Effect of COVID19 on oral research in Indian scenario: An observation. J Oral Maxillofac Pathol 2020;24:446-50

How to cite this URL:
Sundaragiri KS, Panda A. Effect of COVID19 on oral research in Indian scenario: An observation. J Oral Maxillofac Pathol [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 Aug 1];24:446-50. Available from: https://www.jomfp.in/text.asp?2020/24/3/446/306666

   Introduction Top

COVID-19 pandemic has changed the entire world and the research scenario is also not spared by it. As the world grapples to find a cure, rapid research has emerged as the prime means to find a solution for the ongoing viral onslaught. In this current scenario, traditional hardcore research topics and their funding opportunities appear to have taken a back-seat to the front-line COVID-19 related research.

The ongoing COVID-19 research is only in its nascent phase, but it is the forerunner to tackle the challenges of this unprecedented pandemic. The World Health Organization is gathering data of the latest international multilingual scientific findings and knowledge on COVID-19. It was built by BIREME, the Specialized Center of PAHO/AMRO and part of the Regional Office's Department of Evidence and Intelligence for Action in Health.[1] The various research areas for COVID-19 are outlined in [Figure 1].[2]
Figure 1: Proposed research areas for COVID-19. Adapted from Haleem et al. 2020[2]

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Tuttle K felt that the COVID-19 pandemic places a tremendous strain on the clinical research setup while studies in other areas of medicine and dentistry have been affected, constrained by redirection of resources and temporary halting of in-person visits. The author also highlighted that the COVID-19 response introduced innovations that have advanced the overall conduct of clinical research by expedited preparation, ethics review and approval like never before.[3]

What needs to be highlighted that COVID-19 might also affect key ongoing study outcomes as the Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection tends to affect the comorbidities of patients such as glycemic control in diabetics, raise or lower blood pressure in hypertensive patients. This may have an unprecedented effect upon the ongoing research projects encompassing patients suffering from diabetes mellitus, hypertension or any other such systemic disease. The COVID-19 enforced lockdowns also have led to changes in lifestyles, which may also affect outcomes. COVID-19 related potential confounding factors will be crucial considerations for study analysis and interpretation.

The scientific medical community has shown a renewed energy, drive and purpose to use/transform laboratory findings to solve public health issues with the help of researchers and clinicians. During this pandemic year, mutual support, collaboration and peer encouragement have helped re-examine and focus on goals for making research better.[3]

   Dentistry and Oral Health Research Top

Dentistry can contribute significantly to the health and well-being of the community and the economy as a whole. It is not limited to large educational and academic institutions, but also small hospitals and operating clinics. However, this discipline comes with high costs of maintenance and health services. Primary research areas in dentistry are outlined in [Figure 2]. These are core areas that have always been in the priority for dental research and product development.
Figure 2: Priority research areas in dentistry

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Peres et al., in their The Lancet Oral Health Series, describe that dentistry discipline is never on the top priority lists of government and funding bodies, foundation, insurance agencies or policymakers. They highlight few simple reasons

  • Lack of awareness of oral health importance,
  • Underestimation of the essential role of dentists in society welfare,[4]
  • Chronic nonlife-threatening nature of the dental disease process.

Impact of COVID-19 on dentistry

Strict government policies have been enforced regarding emergency dental and nonessential dental clinical procedures. Thus, the nonessential research activities, laboratory-based dental research projects and postgraduate student research projects have been suspended or deferred. As a result, some research focus has shifted to off-campus and electronic study means as conducting literature reviews and online surveys.[5] A shift has occurred for utilizing the free time for personnel skill development and enhancement, attending webinars and workshops. Numerous dental education associations and regional associations have initiated numerous research projects on COVID-19 related dental issues.[6] The rise in international and national interactions and cooperation between universities, colleges and individuals is a significant positive change. The COVID-19 outbreak resulted in the cancellation of one of the largest international dental research events in March 2020, the International Association of Dental Research conference to be held in Washington DC, USA.[7] Similar events have been canceled worldwide – thus starting a cascade of conferences, symposiums, conventions, clinical meets getting canceled or postponed to a later date.

   Indian Perceptive Top

India has the world's second highest number of COVID-19 cases[8] but lacks in the number of COVID-19 related publications/studies or research. The data about COVID-19 research sourced from ClinicalTrials.gov show only 25 active studies from India.[9] Research into communicable diseases has been always poor in India. In the present pandemic, medical facilities and research have received the much desired impetus.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) leads India's fight against COVID-19. It has been actively and regularly releasing press notes, diagnostics and treatment protocols since March 2020. In April 2020, ICMR-National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research (NCDIR) released the National Guidelines for Ethics Committee Reviewing Biomedical & Health Research during the COVID-19 pandemic.[10] A thorough understanding of these guidelines is necessary for Indian researchers wishing to collaborate or conduct COVID-19 research. An overview of the ICMR guidelines for Ethics Committee Reviewing Biomedical & Health Research during COVID-19 pandemic is elaborated in [Table 1].[10]
Table 1: An overview of ICMR guidelines for Ethics Committee Reviewing Biomedical and Health Research during COVID-19 pandemic

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The National Digital Library of India has a COVID-19 Research Resources Repository (Ideas and Funding). It lists funding options and opportunities being announced by several agencies to support COVID-19 research, related news and blogs, ideas being funded as well as trigger thoughts of researchers. The basic idea for this digital portal is to help the researcher and entrepreneurs find suitable funding options and track interesting ideas.[11]

The University Grants Commission in September 2020 released a guidance document titled “Good Academic Research Practice” to foster an ecosystem with foremost importance to academic ethics and research integrity. This can be used as a vital reference for scholarship and science to survive in these challenging times.[12]

Balaji summarized the future of dentistry as a result of COVID-19 disruption. Infection control and sterilization protocols, practice and research ethics, emergency protocols, teledentistry, cost-effectiveness as well as economic analysis of dental practice managements need to be revisited and realigned to suit the existing situation. All new models and ideas in dentistry also will need to be validated by research and evidence.[13] The focus on oral and dental research in the COVID-19 era has to evolve quickly.

   Future Directions Top

There is so much being learnt about the COVID-19 virus each day and never before such large amount of research and resources are getting invested into a relatively unknown pathogen. At the same time, the Internet has become a powerful resource for reaching millions and it shall continue to serve as an engine for social networking, education, research and collaborations.

During this period of COVID-19 isolation, there is an opportunity for dental students and practitioners to build and retain the theoretical and clinical expertise through many educational instruments. It is crucial that we encourage and support these new lines of research, raise knowledge and train our present and future workforce and faculties in this field.[7]

The infrastructure that is being set up during this pandemic can be put into use for other purposes. Massive diversion of funds has shifted to the health-care setup. Translational work from the laboratory to the bench is now much faster. The various synergies of COVID-19 research could be used for collateral development of dental caries vaccine, salivary detection kits for other medical conditions. Transmission of COVID-19 is still very speculative and dental profession is at high risk. The various hot topics for oral research in the COVID-19 era that can be explored are enumerated in [Table 2].
Table 2: Hot topics for dental research in COVID-19 era

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The large Indian dental community could/should help contribute to COVID-19 research and beyond. The Indian dental community needs to seize the opportunity and work together to emerge successfully. Offering oral health-care services and stimulating the economy by organizing students, educators and workers domestically and internationally could help industry and businesses thrive. Extraordinary times need extraordinary effort!! It is our turn to get reckoned.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Haleem A, Javaid M, Vaishya R, Deshmukh SG. Areas of academic research with the impact of COVID-19. Am J Emerg Med 2020;38:1524-152.  Back to cited text no. 2
Tuttle KR. Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on clinical research. Nat Rev Nephrol 2020;16:562-4.  Back to cited text no. 3
Peres MA, Macpherson LM, Weyant RJ, Daly B, Venturelli R, Mathur MR, et al. Oral diseases: A global public health challenge. Lancet 2019;394:249-60.  Back to cited text no. 4
Barabari P, Moharamzadeh K. Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and dentistry – A comprehensive review of literature. Dent J (Basel) 2020;8:18.  Back to cited text no. 5
Emami E. COVID-19: Perspective of a dean of dentistry. JDR Clin Trans Res 2020;5:211-3.  Back to cited text no. 6
Alzahrani SB, Alrusayes AA, Aldossary MS. Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Dental Education, Research, and Students. Int J Health Sci Res 2020; 10 (6):207-12.  Back to cited text no. 7
Corona Status World-India Position. Available from: https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus. [Last accessed on 2020 Sep 29].  Back to cited text no. 8
Available from: https://finbold.com/coronavirus-research-index/. [Last accessed on 2020 Sep 29].  Back to cited text no. 9
National Guidelines for Ethics Committee Reviewing Biomedical and Health Research during COVID-19 Pandemic. In: Mathur R, editor. Bengaluru: ICMR-NCDIR; 2020. Available from: https://www.icmr.gov.in/pdf/covid/techdoc/EC_Guidance_COVID19_06052020.pdf. [Last accessed on 29 Sept 2020].  Back to cited text no. 10
Available from: https://ndl.iitkgp.ac.in/corona-research/ideas_funding. [Last accessed on 2020 Se?p 29].  Back to cited text no. 11
Patwardhan B, Desai A, Chourasia A, Nag S, Bhatnagar R. Guidance Document: Good Academic Research Practices. New Delhi: University Grants Commission; 2020.  Back to cited text no. 12
Balaji SM. COVID-19 – Future of dentistry. Indian J Dent Res 2020;31:167-8.  Back to cited text no. 13
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