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This Week in PLOS: Nov 4, 2013

In PLOS One, a Texas team describes some of the microbial population changes that occur during the bloat stage of human decomposition. By doing 16S ribosomal RNA sequencing on samples collected from various sites inside two naturally decomposing cadavers at the beginning and end of the bloat stage, the researchers identified microbial community members that are more common during one stage than the other — information that may ultimately help in defining microbial communities that can be used in forensic applications such as determining an individual's time of death.

An international team that included investigators from the GIANT consortium, the CRP consortium, and the TAG consortium brought together data for information on alleles influencing variation in several biological intermediates in a PLOS Genetics study. For the phenome-based study, researchers developed genome-wide allelic scores for traits related to body mass index, C-reactive protein levels, and low-density lipoprotein levels, using allelic scores for intermediate traits to search for disease contributors. Authors of the study argue that the approach "represents a simple way in which tens of thousands of molecular phenotypes could be screened for causal relationships with disease without having to expensively measure these variables in individual disease collections."

Plasmodium vivax malaria parasites in Korea underwent pronounced genetic changes between 2002 and 2003, according to a study in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. Researchers from Japan and Korea assessed more than a dozen microsatellite markers in 163 P. vivax isolates collected over nearly a decade and a half after the parasite reemerged there in the 1990s. Results from the genetic analysis pointed to a shift in P. vivax genetic patterns in 2002 and 2003. "Although relapse and asymptomatic carriage might influence the population structure to some extent, our results suggested the continual introduction of P. vivax into South Korea through other parasite population sources," study authors say.