2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
Researchers at the University of North Carolina suggested using the Latin term in fimo, which literally means "in waste," to describe experiments involving excrement analysis. Its use may help researchers avoid confusing terminology, and may eventually become as widespread as in vivo and in vitro. We will tell you about why it was necessary to introduce a new term and how it was invented in our blog.
Coprology (this is the name of the scientific discipline that studies stool) is quite important for medical, biological, and even archaeological and paleontological work. The analysis of excrement allows you to study in detail the nutrition and digestive system of animals (including ancient ones: fossil excrement, by the way, are called coprolites), as well as diagnose diseases (mainly - again - of the digestive system).
Not so long ago, we wrote, for example, that eating the queen's feces by naked mole rats stimulates their desire to care for the cubs.
Such studies are not new and not rare, but they have one important drawback - the lack of a unified terminology. For example, you may have noticed that in the previous paragraphs as many as three terms were used for the same research object.
Of course, this can be regarded as a stylistic trick that allows you to avoid verbal repetitions, and in general - a gift from above (few other scientific objects have so many descriptions), but in fact, the lack of a single formulation brings many inconveniences for the scientific sphere.
First, the lack of a unified wording greatly complicates the search for materials on the topic. In Google Scholar, for the query 'feces' - 600 thousand materials, for the query 'excrements' - 26, 8 thousand, but for the phrase 'fecal extracts' you can find 117 thousand articles. Of course, if you need to find a specific job, you will most likely be able to cope with it, but if your task is to collect works for meta-analysis, then this may not be so easy.
Secondly, a common terminology can simplify the description and compilation of research methodology (for example, if you need to derive a "gold standard" for the study of something).
Thirdly, we are all human, and even the most worthy of minds are not protected from giggling when meeting the word "feces" (to be honest, I myself was a little embarrassed to write this text).
That is why the authors of a small article published in the journal Gastroenterology in November last year proposed a new term for experiments carried out using feces: in fimo (literally: "in waste").
This "elegant" (as the authors themselves call it) solution to the problem of multiple terminology is, of course, due to the widespread use of similar terms in the scientific literature. This is in vivo, which means “in a living organism”, and in vitro (“in vitro”), and ex vivo (a term similar to in vitro, implying further introduction of material back into the body), and many others.
The authors did not come to the new term immediately. In their article, they note that in Latin there are four words used to describe waste (mainly manure, because the Romans were famous for farming): laetamen, merda, stercus and fimus.
The first of them had to be abandoned due to the fact that in Latin it was used exclusively to describe animal excrement. Merda was abandoned, since this word penetrated into many Romance languages in a rather narrow and not very censorship meaning (although in Latin it meant excrement of both animals and people and, in general, was suitable for the term).
Finally, choosing between stercus and fimus (both describe the waste of both animals and humans), the researchers preferred the latter - firstly, because the word had existed in Latin for a longer time, and secondly, due to the fact that it was never used as an insult.
It is not very clear how much time must pass before a new term will firmly enter the scientific language; so far, the authors have only used it in their lecture at the conference. Their studies are devoted, by the way, to the study of enzymes in fimo, and they came up with a separate name for them: it turned out to be a rather playful 'poopernatant' (by analogy with 'supernatant' - a liquid free from sediments).