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This Week in Nature: Aug 21, 2014

In this week's Nature, researchers from the University of Tubingen report on genomic data linking marine mammals to the emergence of human tuberculosis in the Americas. The scientists analyzed the genomes of three ancient Mycobacterium tuberculosis specimens collected from human remains in Peru and found them to be distinct from modern-day human forms, but very similar to those adapted to seals and sea lions. The team speculates that the animals may have acquired the disease from hosts in Africa during the Holocene and transmitted the disease to human populations in North and South America. GenomeWeb Daily News has more on this study here.

Meanwhile, in Nature Communications, a team from Harvard Medical School and elsewhere describe their use of genetic data to reconstruct the population history of Austronesian-speaking people of Island Southeast Asia, finding that they are more closely related to aboriginal Taiwanese people than modern-day Southeast Asians. By analyzing genome-wide genetic markers from individuals across 56 populations from Island Southeast Asia, the researchers found that the genetic foundation of these individuals can be attributed to four discrete sources, including aboriginal Taiwanese, Thai, and New Guinean populations. A large proportion of this genetic component can be traced back to Taiwan, but Western Austronesians were shown to have a strong Austro-Asiatic component. The findings indicate that Austronesian speakers may have migrated through Vietnam or the Malaysian peninsula before settling in Western Indonesia.

The Scan

Topical Compound to Block EGFR Inhibitors May Ease Skin Toxicities, Study Finds

A topical treatment described in Science Translational Medicine may limit skin toxicities seen with EGFR inhibitor therapy.

Dozen Genetic Loci Linked to Preeclampsia Risk in New GWAS

An analysis of genome-wide association study data in JAMA Cardiology finds genetic loci linked to preeclampsia that have ties to blood pressure.

Cancer Survival Linked to Mutational Burden in Pan-Cancer Analysis

A pan-cancer paper appearing in JCO Precision Oncology suggests tumor mutation patterns provide clues for predicting cancer survival that are independent of other prognostic factors.

Australian Survey Points to Public Support for Genetic Risk Disclosure in Relatives of At-Risk Individuals

A survey in the European Journal of Human Genetics suggests most adult Australians are in favor of finding out if a relative tests positive for a medically actionable genetic variant.