BIREME Bulletin n° 71

DeCS/MeSH 2022 Edition is now available

The 2022 edition of the Health Sciences Descriptors (DeCS/MeSH) is fully compatible with the most recent version of the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) vocabulary, produced by the NLM.

The DeCS/MeSH thesaurus is the result of one of the main technical cooperation actions between BIREME/PAHO/WHO and the US National Library of Medicine (NLM), established over 35 years ago.

DeCS/MeSH allows the same terminology to be used to retrieve information from the scientific literature in the VHL in databases such as LILACS and MEDLINE, among others, in Spanish, French, English, and Portuguese. The thesaurus is used in the indexing and retrieval of journal articles, books, conference proceedings, technical reports, and other types of bibliographic material, which gives users in the Latin American and Caribbean region the possibility to locate scientific literature using their own language.

Annual MeSH update

Through the MeSH 2022 update, which was released in January, 277 new descriptors were added, spread over 15 categories, and only the category [V] Publication Characteristics did not receive any new descriptors in this edition. The translations into Portuguese and Spanish of the scope and indexing notes altered by MeSH in existing records were also completed, as well as the movement of terms between concepts within the hierarchy.

The additions and changes from the previous year are detailed on the Current Edition page in the DeCS/MeSH portal, where changes made to the exclusive categories managed by BIREME/PAHO/WHO are also indicated.

Creation of the Traditional, Complementary and Integrative Medicines category

The highlight of the 2022 edition is the incorporation of a new category to the thesaurus: Traditional, Complementary, and Integrative Medicines, [TM], which had the collaboration of the MTCI Americas Network, which coordinates the MTCI VHL. Comprised of 113 descriptors, 45 of which are unpublished, the category meets the demand already observed by users of the MTCI VHL for specific literature recovery in this thematic area.

Traditional, complementary, and integrative medicines are part of a theme that involves a series of medical systems, therapies, and health practices that have in common a comprehensive view of living beings, health, and disease. Some of these systems are part of the ancestral traditions and knowledge of ancient cultures, others are innovative proposals that promote a holistic view of life, health, disease processes, care, recovery, rehabilitation, and even death.

The methodology for elaborating the MTCI category in the DeCS/MeSH thesaurus covered the following steps:

Step 1 – Proposal for identifying the descriptors and their ranking based on the thematic structure already present in the MTCI VHL, followed by constant mediation by the committee of experts from the MTCI Americas Network;

Step 2 – Submission of the proposed hierarchy and its descriptors for public evaluation through a question form in order to allow all interested parties to submit their suggestions, criticisms, and to recommend changes. The public consultation was used as a mechanism for social participation and was live for a period of five weeks on the DeCS/MeSH and MTCI VHL portals. After compiling the responses obtained in the form and accepting suggestions for inclusion or exclusion of terms, BIREME submitted the collectively constructed proposal to the expert committee for validation.

Step 3 – The publication of the new category in the DeCS/MeSH hierarchy is the last step of the methodology and consolidates the efforts employed. It is worth mentioning that the vocabulary is dynamic and new descriptors may be added, deleted, or moved positionally in future editions of the vocabulary.

Review of the Public Health category

In addition to the annual review of MeSH and the incorporation of a new category to DeCS, the implementation of the changes arising from the review of the [SP] Public Health category was consolidated, which, as it is not included in MeSH, is one of the exclusive categories to DeCS, along with [HP] Homeopathy, [SH] Science and Health, [VS] Health Surveillance and the aforementioned [MT] Traditional, Complementary, and Integrative Medicines.

The [SP] Public Health category has been reviewed since 2019, with the collaboration of a bilingual team of experts, which constituted the committee for the technical review. The review culminated in the addition, in the 2022 edition, of 112 new concepts, in addition to the movement or elimination of another 180 others. The details of this activity can be found on the page about the current edition in the DeCS/MeSH portal.

Spanish language variant (from Spain)

Thanks to a cooperation agreement with the Biblioteca Nacional de Ciencias de la Salud (BNCS) of the Instituto de Salud Carlos III in Spain, BIREME is also responsible for incorporating the terminological adaptations into Spanish from Spain. In DeCS/MeSH, the percentage difference between European and Latin American Spanish in the preferred concepts of descriptors is around 19%.


In order to promote the visibility of this idiomatic variant and as an innovation on the DeCS/MeSH portal, as of the 2022 edition, the result of the query brings a button in which the user has access to the variant of the descriptor in Spanish from Spain, such as in the example the Striatonigral Degeneration descriptor.

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