Searching PubMed for molecular epidemiology studies: The case of chromosome aberrations

Donatella Ugolini, Monica Neri, Lisbeth E. Knudsen, Stefano Bonassi, Domenico Franco Merlo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The available tools for searching literature in the field of Molecular Epidemiology are largely unsatisfactory. To identify major problems in retrieving information on this discipline, we comment here on the results of a literature search on cytogenetic biomarkers in children exposed to environmental pollutants. The search, done on the PubMed/MedLine database, was based on a strategy combining descriptors listed in the PubMed Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) Thesaurus and other available tools (free text or phrase search tools). 178 articles were retrieved by searching the period from January 1, 1980 to November 30, 2004. Only 2 of the 178 articles were indexed by the MeSH term "Epidemiology, molecular" (introduced in 1994) and 30 of 178 by the MeSH term "Biological markers" (introduced in 1989). The case of chromosome aberration (CA) was emblematic of the problem: 44 of 78 articles (56.4%) were not pertinent to the search. The reasons for this poor performance are reported and discussed. Authors and indexers may be able to improve the efficiency of article retrieval in the field of molecular epidemiology by using relevant terms in the title and abstract. This may suggest appropriate MeSH terms to the indexers for the indexing process. As regards the difficulty in identifiyng population studies using CA, the introduction of a specific MeSH term for chromosome aberrations when used as a biomarker would improve the search process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-229
Number of pages3
JournalEnvironmental and Molecular Mutagenesis
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2006


  • Abstracting and indexing
  • Biological markers
  • Epidemiology
  • Information storage and retrieval
  • Molecular
  • PubMed

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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