Figure 2. Processing of stool samples according to consistency including whole-stool homogenization. Sausage-shaped-but-soft samples were processed like in (A) without taking samples from the center.
Hundreds of millions of people suffer from parasitic infections, like hookworm. And how do doctors diagnose these infections? Stool samples.
An accurate diagnosis is key for doctors to better understand and treat parasitic worms. The current diagnosing method relies on counting worm eggs in stool samples, but doctors often miss infections if they are mild or unevenly distributed throughout a sample.
Scientists in Côte d’Ivoire set out to see how they could improve the diagnosing process. The researchers necessarily have a sense of humor about their study, which they titled “An In-Depth Analysis of a Piece of Shit,” published in PLoS Neglected Tropial Diseases last week.
The researchers found that homogenizing the stool samples made for more accurate egg counts with particular infections, and that storing stool samples on ice or covered with a wet tissue prevented the decay of certain worm eggs. Their findings may help doctors better identify, treat and control the spread of these serious infections. Their turd-dissection diagrams are pretty entertaining as well.
Image courtesy of Stefanie J. Krauth et al.
The journal is open access so you to can read it. It has the great figure from above in it as well as this great description under the heading Stool Parameters:
Stool was produced between 05:30 and 11:10 hours (median: 08:35 hours) and collected between 07:52 and 11:19 hours (median: 09:05 hours). On average, nine samples were collected each day (range: 2–11 samples). One third of all samples (33.8%) were sausage-shaped, 28.8% were mushy, 25.2% were sausage-shaped-but-soft, 7.7% were lumpy, and 4.5% were sausage-shaped-but-lumpy (Table 2).
All potty humor aside – as their title shows, even researchers are human – the article details better procedures to diagnose parasite infections that harm millions. I just think we might find better approaches than having to count eggs in shit.
How about next-generation sequencing devices that can determine if parasite DNA is present in the stool?