A systematic review of systematic reviews and meta-analyses of animal experiments with guidelines for reporting

J Environ Sci Health B. 2006;41(7):1245-58. doi: 10.1080/03601230600857130.


To maximize the findings of animal experiments to inform likely health effects in humans, a thorough review and evaluation of the animal evidence is required. Systematic reviews and, where appropriate, meta-analyses have great potential in facilitating such an evaluation, making efficient use of the animal evidence while minimizing possible sources of bias. The extent to which systematic review and meta-analysis methods have been applied to evaluate animal experiments to inform human health is unknown. Using systematic review methods, we examine the extent and quality of systematic reviews and meta-analyses of in vivo animal experiments carried out to inform human health. We identified 103 articles meeting the inclusion criteria: 57 reported a systematic review, 29 a systematic review and a meta-analysis, and 17 reported a meta-analysis only. The use of these methods to evaluate animal evidence has increased over time. Although the reporting of systematic reviews is of adequate quality, the reporting of meta-analyses is poor. The inadequate reporting of meta-analyses observed here leads to questions on whether the most appropriate methods were used to maximize the use of the animal evidence to inform policy or decision-making. We recommend that guidelines proposed here be used to help improve the reporting of systematic reviews and meta-analyses of animal experiments. Further consideration of the use and methodological quality and reporting of such studies is needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Experimentation*
  • Animals
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic*
  • Research / standards*
  • Research Design
  • Review Literature as Topic*
  • Terminology as Topic