The comet assay is a rapid, sensitive and relatively simple method for measuring DNA damage. A bibliometric study was performed to evaluate temporal and geographical trends, research quality and main areas of interest in scientific production in this field. A PubMed search strategy was developed and 7674 citations were retrieved in the period 1990-2013. Notably, the MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) term 'comet assay', officially introduced in 2000, is used by indexers only in two thirds of papers retrieved. Articles on the comet assay were published in 78 countries, spread over the 5 continents. The EU contributed the greatest output, producing >2900 articles with IF (42.0%) and totalling almost 10000 IF points, and was followed by USA. In the new millennium, research with this assay reached a plateau or slow decline in the most industrialised areas (USA, Germany, UK, Italy), while its use has boomed in emerging countries, with increases of 5- to 7-fold in the last 10 years in China, India and Brazil, for instance. This transition resulted in a slow decrease of scientific production quality, as the countries that increased their relative weight typically had lower mIFs. The most common MeSH terms used in papers using the comet assay referred to wide areas of interest, such as DNA damage and repair, cell survival and apoptosis, cancer and oxidative stress, occupational and environmental health. Keywords related to humans, rodents and cell culture were also frequently used. The top journal for the comet assay articles was found to be Mutation Research, followed by Mutagenesis. Most papers using the comet assay as a biomarker were published in genetic and toxicology journals, with a stress on environmental and occupational disciplines.
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