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BACKGROUND: Technological advances and high throughput biological assays can facilitate discovery science in biobanks from population cohorts, including pregnant women. Biological pathways associated with health outcomes differ depending on geography, and high-income country data may not generalise to low-resource settings. We conducted a systematic review to identify prospective pregnancy cohorts in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) that include biobanked samples with potential to enhance discovery science opportunity. METHODS: Inclusion criteria were prospective data collection during pregnancy, with associated biobanking in SSA. Data sources included: scientific databases (with comprehensive search terms), grey literature, hand searching applicable reference lists and expert input. Results were screened in a three-stage process based on title, abstract and full text by two independent reviewers. The review is registered on PROSPERO (CRD42019147483). RESULTS: Fourteen SSA studies met the inclusion criteria from database searches (n=8), reference list searches (n=2) and expert input (n=4). Three studies have ongoing data collection. The most represented countries were South Africa and Mozambique (Southern Africa) (n=3), Benin (Western Africa) (n=4) and Tanzania (Eastern Africa) (n=4); including an estimated 31 763 women. Samples commonly collected were blood, cord blood and placenta. Seven studies collected neonatal samples. Common clinical outcomes included maternal and perinatal mortality, malaria and preterm birth. CONCLUSIONS: Increasingly numerous pregnancy cohorts in SSA that include biobanking are generating a uniquely valuable resource for collaborative discovery science, and improved understanding of the high regional risks of maternal, fetal and neonatal morbidity and mortality. Future studies should align protocols and consider their added value and distinct contributions.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Glob Health

Publication Date





cohort study, maternal health, obstetrics, systematic review