Here now for your consideration is "An In-Depth Analysis of a Piece of Shit," — a real research article published by real scientists in the latest issue of PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, a real, peer-reviewed scientific journal.

A team of researchers led by epidemiologist Jürg Utzinger herein explores the prevalence of parasitic-worm eggs (like those belonging to the hookworm up top — that's it's mouth, by the way) in infected human stool:

An accurate diagnosis of helminth infection is important to improve patient management. However, there is considerable intra- and inter-specimen variation of helminth egg counts in human feces. Homogenization of stool samples has been suggested to improve diagnostic accuracy, but there are no detailed investigations. Rapid disintegration of hookworm eggs constitutes another problem in epidemiological surveys. We studied the spatial distribution of Schistosoma mansoni and hookworm eggs in stool samples, the effect of homogenization, and determined egg counts over time in stool samples stored under different conditions.

The article also features an illustration that we feel deserves a place in our ever-growing inventory of amusing journal figures (as is the case with most figures in the list, the illustration is particularly entertaining when taken entirely out of context). Warning: cartoon defecation ahead.


The article, which can be accessed here free of charge, actually makes for pretty interesting reading, especially in light of recent investigations into the therapeutic potential of helminths like hookworms. As the authors point out, "an accurate diagnosis of parasitic worm infections is important for adequate patient treatment and disease control programs." Perhaps not surprisingly, the distribution of helminth eggs in human stool is a pretty under-explored field of study. Research such as this, messy though it may be, is of considerable epidemiological importance.