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This Week in PLOS: Aug 27, 2012

Researchers in Hong Kong report in PLOS One on using a metagenomic-based approach to identify a novel bat papillomavirus. They sequenced DNA collected from rectal swabs of 156 healthy animals, including cattle, bats, pigs, monkeys, stray cats, and stray dogs. From this, the researchers identified the papillomavirus MscPV1, which has a 52.4 percent nucleotide identity with the fruit bat papillomavirus RaPV1. According to classification criteria, the researchers add that MscPV1 is the first known member of a new genus, Dyolambda-papillomavirus. "Given the possibilities of asymptomatic carriage and long-distance, interspecies transmission, further studies are warranted to elucidate the evolutionary origin and epidemiology of this newly proposed genus of bat PV," they add.

Over in PLOS Pathogens, researchers led by Los Alamos National Laboratory's Alan Perelson present their estimation of the in vivo mutation rate of the hepatitis C virus. They studied the viral dynamics and viral diversification in 17 people with early, acute infections and used that to determine that the median mutation rate was 2.5×10-5 mutations per nucleotide per replication cycle, which the researchers note is similar to other RNA viruses.

In a related PLOS Pathogens article, investigators report using single genome sequencing to study hepatitis C virus transmission in 17 patients. From this, they report that the median multiplicity of infection was 4. "Surprisingly, we found evidence of high multiplicity acute-to-acute HCV transmission in 3 of 17 subjects, which suggests that clinical transmission of HCV, like that of HIV-1, may be enhanced in early infection when virus titers are highest and neutralizing antibodies are absent," the investigators write.

The Scan

Octopus Brain Complexity Linked to MicroRNA Expansions

Investigators saw microRNA gene expansions coinciding with complex brains when they analyzed certain cephalopod transcriptomes, as they report in Science Advances.

Study Tracks Outcomes in Children Born to Zika Virus-Infected Mothers

By following pregnancy outcomes for women with RT-PCR-confirmed Zika virus infections, researchers saw in Lancet Regional Health congenital abnormalities in roughly one-third of live-born children.

Team Presents Benchmark Study of RNA Classification Tools

With more than 135 transcriptomic datasets, researchers tested two dozen coding and non-coding RNA classification tools, establishing a set of potentially misclassified transcripts, as they report in Nucleic Acids Research.

Breast Cancer Risk Related to Pathogenic BRCA1 Mutation May Be Modified by Repeats

Several variable number tandem repeats appear to impact breast cancer risk and age at diagnosis in almost 350 individuals carrying a risky Ashkenazi Jewish BRCA1 founder mutation.