[CDHC] YBBD Update and Other Suggestions

Esther Peters esther.peters at tetratech-ffx.com
Thu Oct 30 08:21:14 EST 2003

Dear Nomenclature Committee and Other Members of the CDHC,


Last week we (Esther Peters, James Cervino, Andy Bruckner, Tom Goreau) posted a request for reconsideration of the name of the disease currently posted on the CDHC coral disease page as “yellow band,” which has also been referred to in the literature as “yellow-blotch disease.”  The name “yellow-blotch/band disease” is proposed as a replacement, to distinguish this Caribbean disease from yellow-band disease found in the Arabian Gulf.


Comments received by Esther thus far include the following (direct quotes, except spelling has been corrected).  Clarifications from Esther are in triple brackets.


“This is fine by me, and I think a sensible compromise.”


“I was a little confused about your posting…. Wouldn’t the compromise name still not provide clear distinctions between the two?”


“This looks good.  However, many other name problems exist [e.g., Bleaching, Coral Bleaching, Coral-reef bleaching].  The point of capitalizing disease names must also be considered some day [i.e., in your item Black Band Disease (= Black-band Disease) is capitalized, but other diseases are not.”


[[[The “Black Band Disease” in the posting was a direct quote from the referenced paper.  In the biomedical literature, disease names are not capitalized unless a proper noun is involved; however, this has not been uniformly applied by scientists and editors in the coral reef literature.  I noted the Nomenclature Committee also discussed hyphenation, which depends on whether you treat “black band” as a compound adjective modifying the term “disease” in the case of this disease, which one editor had told me it should be.  Debate ensued about use of hyphens in animal diseases, not often applied in the literature and with variable usage in disease names in medical dictionaries.  Should “black” and “band” be considered separate identifiers, not a single compound one?  This respondent replied that “More literature exists for common names of species.  The bird people have an elaborate set of rules for capitalization and hyphenation, so do the fish people.”  Perhaps we need to set these rules also.]]]


“Yellow band/blotch disease YBBD sounds good to me.”


“I found your arguments very reasonable, so I agree to start using a different name for this disease to differentiate it from the Arabian syndrome.  Nevertheless, in order to keep things more simple, I would prefer your earlier proposal, i.e., Yellow Blotch Disease, for which we can use the abbreviation YBL (three letters as in others).”


“I agree with [the above]….  Unfortunately, I wrote a paper…and it is in press with this same mistake/misunderstanding.  I think the problem is that the signs of YBD are not clear or not very well known/described/disseminated.  I haven’t seen YBD yet.  Hopefully, somebody has seen both YBD and YBBD and can clarify the differences.”


[[[In regard to a different paper]]] “I’m going to change yellow blotch to yellow blotch/band…, but I am concerned about the abbreviation (YBBD) being confused with yellow band (YBD)….I am going to use YBL as an abbreviation for yellow blotch/band.”


“I do not see the need to call this Yellow Blotch / Band Disease….continue to name this syndrome as Yellow Blotch to distinguish it from the YBD of the Red Seas.  I think most people know what we are talking about in the Caribbean, i.e., the understanding that it forms a band, as described in many papers.  My suggestion will be “yellow blotch syndrome” until we describe the culprit pathogen.”


[[[ The term “syndrome” is virtually synonymous with “disease.”  It refers to the group of signs (and in humans, symptoms) that constitute the picture of a particular disease.  It is not a term that is given to impairments for which a causal agent has not been identified yet, and in the medical dictionary, you can find both terms used for the same condition (e.g., Marfan’s disease and Marfan’s syndrome).  So I’m not sure we need the term syndrome with yellow blotch.  The respondent replied “Yes I know both terms are used interchangeably in human diseases, but I guess this is because the pathogens for these diseases are readily identifiable. If we define the term "syndrome" as signifying a disease for which the putative pathogen has not been identified, it could be helpful to everyone since we will know if the particular problem has an identified pathogen or not. That is my point in differentiating the two terms, but if you think this is not necessary, that’s OK.”  But note that the pathogen has not been identified in all human diseases, for example, Alzheimer’s disease, but it has been identified in Down’s syndrome.  Also, a disease needs only to be characterized by two of these three criteria: identifiable group of signs and symptoms (humans only) or consistent anatomical alterations or recognized etiologic agent(s) (Stedman’s Medical Dictionary). ]]]


From these comments, it appears that yellow-blotch disease or yellow-blotch/band disease are favored.  However, the abbreviation YBBD does have more letters than the other coral disease abbreviations (e.g., BBD, WBD, WP).  It could get confused with YBD, particularly when writing notes underwater.  YBL is proposed to be the abbreviation for consistency.


This issue is of concern because scientists are writing and publishing more papers and would like to be using the most appropriate name.  The CDHC is planning more work on nomenclature of coral diseases in the near future.  Please send your comments on this proposed name change or suggestions for other options for “yellow-blotch/band disease.”  Thank you!


Esther Peters, Ph.D.

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