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This Week in Nature: May 22, 2014

In online, advance issue of Nature this week, University of Cambridge microbiologist Sharon Peacock argues for the use of DNA sequencing to track and treat drug-resistant bacterial infections. By sequencing the genomes of pathogens obtained from patients, clinicians can determine which drugs will be effective. And although there is a need for protocols and automated analytical systems on the local level in order to implement sequencing in routine medical care, she says advances by academic and commercial groups are poised to fill such gaps.

Meanwhile, in Nature Communications, a team from China Agricultural University reports the draft genome sequence of the fungus Ustilaginoidea virens, which is responsible for the rice infection false smut. The effort, along with the results of low-coverage sequencing of four additional U. virens and a comparative analysis with 11 other fungal species, revealed that the fungus absorbs nutrients through the stamen filaments of the host plant, which disadvantages, but does not kill, the host. The researchers also identified several genes responsible for toxin production that likely contributes to the fungus' pathogenicity.

Also in Nature Communications, an Arizona State University group published the full sequenced genome of the dampwood termite, Zootermopsis nevadensis, uncovering genes that may be behind the development of the insect's complex social structures. The scientists found that while genes involved in sperm production and odor detection have evolved differently in termites and insects from the eusocial order Hymenoptera, there are similarities in the number and expression of genes that are involved in immunity, reproduction and endocrinology. According to the researchers, the findings provide insights into the biological mechanisms underlying social organization in termites and related species. The Scan has more on this here.