January 4, 2013 12:22 pm
Here’s how to get attention for your research paper: drop an S-bomb in the title. A paper published this week in the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases examines parasitic hookworm egg presensence in human feces. The article authors aptly title their work, “An In-Depth Analysis of a Piece of Shit.”
As i09 points out, besides the provocative title, the article does make for an interesting read. Hookworms, like other parasitic worms called helminths, are one of the most burdensome pathogens on the planet. Studies of total global disease burdens rank hookworms just under malaria for their impacts in developing countries. Indeed, of all the neglected tropical diseases in the world, hookworms currently rank #2. The bloodsucking worms invade children’s and adults’ bodies, sucking them of nutrients and thus lowering their IQs. People with heavy hookworm infections who also lack access to proper nutrition suffer a 40 percent reduction in future wage earnings, making hookworm infection not only a health problem for nations but also an economic one.
This new study aimed to figure out a way to accurately count hookworm eggs in stool samples, which aids in diagnosis of how heavy a person’s hookworm infection is. The eggs disintegrate rapidly, and no known studies have ever investigated techniques for standardizing or improving egg count accuracy.
The researchers collected feces from 222 participants from Côte d’Ivoire, then divided each sample into four equal parts to subject it to different counting and preservation techniques, like soaking it in water, keeping it on ice or putting it in the shade. Storing stool samples on ice or covering them with a moist tissue worked best for slowing down hookworm egg decay, they found. Using homogenization, a chemistry technique used for making standardized mixtures, can also help improve egg count accuracy.
For people suffering from hookworm infection, diagnosing the disease may mean the difference between earning a higher salary, attending school or living a healthy life. Even if the research has a silly title, it does answer an important question of global significance.
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