PLOS Medicine Special Issues

PLOS Medicine Special Issues bring together original research and commentary on priority topics in human health under the guidance of expert Guest Editors. By featuring such work in full open access, the journal seeks to raise broad awareness and accelerate progress in these areas. Consistent with journal policy, special issues do not receive sponsorship or advertising from companies that produce medical treatments, devices or diagnostics, and all published research articles undergo full peer review.  

Determinants, Consequences and Management of Obesity


Worldwide obesity has tripled since 1975 and is projected to rise by 2030 resulting in an increased burden of ill health. Our goal is to bring together researchers and clinicians devoted to caring for people with obesity and its multiple co-morbidities. Submissions should be of broad interest to health practitioners and present research that helps to advance clinical practice or health policy. Areas of focus include: genetic, socioeconomic, cultural and lifestyle determinants of obesity as well as risk factors for obesity at the individual and population level including nutrition, economic deprivation, genetic predisposition and physical activity. Additional areas of focus are: the metabolic consequences of obesity including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, understanding the burden of obesity and co-morbidities to inform patient management and epidemiology of disease burden in minority populations or low-middle income countries. This Special Issue will also highlight strategies to prevent, manage or treat obesity along with its related co-morbidities: behavioural interventions to assist weight loss, population-based interventions such as food or sugary drinks taxation and surgical/pharmacological interventions to treat obesity.

Guest Editors are Dr. Karine Clément of The Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale, France; Dr. Sanjay Basu of Harvard Medical School; Dr. Ronald CW Ma of the Chinese University of Hong Kong; and Dr. Nick Wareham of the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Refugee and Migrant Health


At the 72nd World Health Assembly held May 20–28, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland, a very welcome global action plan was agreed which seeks to establish a “framework of priorities and guiding principles … to promote the health of refugees and migrants”. The WHO document also notes that the number of forcibly displaced people has reached its highest ever level, at an estimated 68.5 million individuals, including 25.4 million refugees—the majority hosted in low- and middle-income countries. Further, approximately 10 million stateless people lack basic human rights to freedom of movement, education and health care. Scattered across the planet, such enormous numbers of people dwarf the individual populations of many countries yet, all too often, no government or international agency can offer adequate protection or health provision to this virtual state of refugees and migrants.

Seeking to raise awareness of the health threats faced by migrants and refugees and to promote research, service and policy innovation in this area, the editors of PLOS Medicine are planning a Special Issue on the topic to be published in March 2020. Guest Editors are Dr Paul Spiegel, Director of the Center for Humanitarian Health, Johns Hopkins University; Dr Kolitha Wickramage, the Global Health Research and Epidemiology Coordinator at the UN Migration Agency; and Ms Terry McGovern, the Harriet and Robert H. Heilbrunn Professor and Chair Population and Family Health at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

Substance Use, Misuse, and Dependence


Substance use and misuse affects people worldwide, of all ages and from all walks of life, resulting in a substantial burden of ill health and mortality, and presenting big challenges in prevention and treatment. For this Special Issue, PLOS Medicine is calling for research papers from the diverse communities that work to support people and populations affected by substance use and misuse. Our goal is to bring together clinicians and researchers from all the specialties involved in caring for people and communities impacted by substance use disorder, to stimulate research and strengthen the knowledge and expertise to combat the consequences of substance use and misuse. Submissions should be of broad interest to health practitioners, meet PLOS Medicine’s general criteria, and present research to help advance clinical practice or health policy.

This issue is guest edited by Dr. Margarita Alegría, Chief of the Disparities Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital and Professor in the Departments of Medicine and Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School; Dr. Steffanie Strathdee, the Associate Dean of Global Health Sciences, the Harold Simon Professor of Medicine, and co-director of the Center for Innovative Phage Applications all at the University of California, San Diego; and Dr. Alexander Tsai, psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. 

Maternal and Child Health & Nutrition


In many parts of the world maternal and child health outcomes are increasingly impacted by indirect causes, many of which are related to nutrition. Women with diabetes, anemia or who are overweight, are at a higher risk of childbirth-related complications. Their newborns, in turn, are also at a higher risk of experiencing adverse health outcomes later in life. With nearly one in three persons suffering from at least one form of malnutrition in the world – from undernutrition to obesity via diet-related non-communicable diseases – and infant nutrition being crucial particularly in the first 1,000 days of life, this Special Issue highlights the importance of nutrition for maternal and child health.

This issue is guest edited by Dr. Lars Åke Persson of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and based at the Ethiopian Public Health Institute, Addis Ababa; Dr. Kathleen M. Rasmussen of the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York; and Dr. Huixia Yang of Peking University First Hospital and the Chinese Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

New Tools and Strategies for Tuberculosis Diagnosis, Care, and Elimination​


As the leading infectious cause of death worldwide, tuberculosis demands an urgent response that will realistically enable the disease’s elimination. Despite increases in funding for TB prevention and care in recent years, progress still lags behind targets for the WHO’s End TB strategy.

Guest edited by Dr. Claudia Denkinger (Head of Tuberculosis, Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics), Dr. Richard Chaisson, (Director, Johns Hopkins University Center for Tuberculosis Research), and Dr. Mark Hatherill (Director, South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative), this PLOS Medicine special issue focuses on new approaches to fighting and ending TB, including discovery and validation of novel biomarkers and diagnostic technologies, development of new treatments, testing of vaccines for prevention of infection and recurrence, and implementation studies of new strategies for diagnosis and treatment of TB.

Machine Learning in Health and Biomedicine


Modern statistical modeling techniques—often called machine learning—are posited as a transformative force for human health. High-profile reports of diagnostic success demonstrate promise, but head-to-head comparisons to classical analyses of clinical data indicate that restraint is warranted. Practical questions are also timely. Will machine learning drive precision medicine? Will it elevate care in low-resource settings? How will the clinician interact with the machine?


In this Special Issue, PLOS Medicine and our Guest Editors Atul Butte, Suchi Saria, and Aziz Sheikh will feature research that applies machine learning methods to clinical care, health systems, and pathophysiology. These articles will provide a broad perspective on what machine learning is achieving in health and biomedicine, and will be accompanied by expert commentary on the application, impact, and ethics of these approaches.


Climate Change and Health

Climate change and the impacts on health are being increasingly reported and documented. It is expected that with continued rises in global temperature and greenhouse gas emissions the effects on health will become more widely experienced and extreme. PLOS Medicine, will publish a Special Issue on climate change and health in July 2018. This issue is guest edited by Dr Jonathan Patz (Director, Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Dr Madeleine Thomson (International Research Institute for Climate and Society, Columbia University) . The issue will focus on topics including the health effects of extreme heat and flooding, food system effects, non-communicable disease risk, such as air pollution, infectious disease risks and the health benefits of greenhouse gas mitigation policies. The issue will have a particular focus on evidence based studies focused on policy-relevant work on adaptation and mitigation options. Read the full Call for Papers, or submit your research to this special issue.

Cardiovascular Disease and Multimorbidity

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one cause of death and disability globally, with an estimated 17.7 million deaths from CVD in 2015.  More than three-quarters of CVD deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. The demographic shift towards older populations across the globe and the relatively slower decline in morbidity compared with mortality from CVD have resulted in increasing numbers of people with both CVD and other chronic and disabling conditions.

In March 2018, PLOS Medicine published a special issue on the identification, prevention, and treatment of CVD with multimorbidity. This special issue was guest edited by Dr Carolyn S. P. Lam (Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore), Dr Kazem Rahimi (The George Institute for Global Health, University of Oxford, UK), and Dr Steven Steinhubl (Scripps Translational Science Institute, USA).

Advances in HIV Prevention, Treatment and Cure

HIV infection continues to pose a critical risk to health in many countries. UNAIDS estimated that as of 2016 the total HIV-infected population was 36.7 million, including 1.8 million people newly infected that year. Although some 19.5 million people are receiving antiretroviral treatment, a substantial treatment gap leaves many millions of people at risk of AIDS-related diseases and, if unaware of their status, likely to infect others.

Throughout November 2017, PLOS Medicine published a Special Issue on advances in HIV Prevention, Treatment and Cure. This Special Issue was guest edited by Dr Linda-Gail Bekker (Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, University of Cape Town); Dr Steven Deeks (University of California, San Francisco); and Dr Sharon Lewin (Peter Doherty Institute of Infection and Immunity, University of Melbourne and Royal Melbourne Hospital).

Traumatic Injury

Traumatic injury has long been recognized as a neglected disease of extremely high burden. Although the nature of traumatic injury and need for swift care pose challenges to research during the immediate response to trauma, high-quality scientific research and clinical evidence in these early phases have the potential to mitigate long term disability and prevent deaths. In July 2017, PLOS Medicine published a Special Issue on Trauma, guest edited by Prof. Karim Brohi (Centre for Trauma Sciences, Blizard Institute, Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom) and Dr. Martin Schreiber (Division of Trauma, Critical Care, and Acute Care Surgery, Department of Surgery, Oregon Health and Science University, United States).

Dementia Across the Lifespan and Around the Globe – Pathophysiology, Prevention, Treatment, and Societal Impact

Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) estimates that in 2015 there were 46.8 million cases of dementia worldwide, with a total cost exceeding US$ 818 billion for the year. In early 2017, PLOS Medicine will publish a special issue on the pathophysiology, prevention, treatment, and societal impact of dementia. This special issue is guest edited by Dr. Carol Brayne, Director of the Cambridge Institute for Public Health at Cambridge University, and Dr. Bruce Miller, Director of the Aging and Memory Center at the University of California San Francisco, and includes commissioned Editorials and Perspectives written by leaders in the field. 

Translating the Cancer Genome — Implications for Diagnosis and Treatment

Over the last few years, dramatic reductions in the cost of sequencing as well advances in sequencing technologies have enabled key insights into the genomic alterations and somatic mutations that lead to cancer and accompany disease progression. For many cancers, the drivers and molecular evolutionary history are now beginning to be understood, and this molecular information is being used to develop novel, and in many cases tailored, therapies. The field is at an exciting juncture: promising results are emerging from immunotherapy and vaccine development programs. In light of this, PLOS Medicine has published a special issue on this topic, guest edited by Dr. Elaine Mardis and Dr. Marc Ladanyi.

Diabetes Prevention

Diabetes is a global problem with recent estimates of a staggering 410 million people with diabetes mellitus in 2013. Furthermore, projections from the International Diabetes Foundation suggest that by 2040 the global burden of diabetes may be as high as 642 million, which would mean that 1 in 10 adults will be living with diabetes. The high risk of disabling and life-threatening complications resulting from poor control of blood glucose, and the enormous individual and societal costs associated with them, demonstrate the urgent need for more effective approaches to prevention. This Special Issue - guest edited by Prof. Nick Wareham and Prof. William Herman - features PLOS Medicine publications that focus on the prevention of diabetes, including lifestyle changes that can elicit reductions in diabetes incidence and how taxes can reduce the number of sugary foods purchased.