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A Snag for Mutating Viruses to Extinction

In the New York Times, Carl Zimmer discusses a tack being taken to fight viruses. Viruses, he says, evolve rapidly to escape the reaches of the immune system and to adjust to a new tissue that they have invaded, but mutate too much and the viruses suffer. "[Some scientists] hope to cure infections by forcing viruses to evolve their way to extinction," Zimmer writes. However, a new paper coming out in Genetics from a team at the University of Texas, Austin, tested the impact of a high mutation rate on the long-term fitness of DNA bacteriophage T7. The researchers grew the phage up with a mutagen — producing four non-lethal mutations per generation — and saw that, after 200 generations, fitness had increased. "Failure of the theory challenges the quantitative basis of lethal mutagenesis and highlights the potential for adaptive evolution at high mutation rates," the researchers write.

The Scan

Researchers Compare WGS, Exome Sequencing-Based Mendelian Disease Diagnosis

Investigators find a diagnostic edge for whole-genome sequencing, while highlighting the cost advantages and improving diagnostic rate of exome sequencing in EJHG.

Researchers Retrace Key Mutations in Reassorted H1N1 Swine Flu Virus With Avian-Like Features

Mutations in the acidic polymerase-coding gene boost the pathogenicity and transmissibility of Eurasian avian-like H1N1 swine influenza viruses, a PNAS paper finds.

Genome Sequences Reveal Evolutionary History of South America's Canids

An analysis in PNAS of South American canid species' genomes offers a look at their evolutionary history, as well as their relationships and adaptations.

Lung Cancer Response to Checkpoint Inhibitors Reflected in Circulating Tumor DNA

In non-small cell lung cancer patients, researchers find in JCO Precision Oncology that survival benefits after immune checkpoint blockade coincide with a dip in ctDNA levels.