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This Week in PLOS: Feb 3, 2014

An updated version of a model that uses patient age and five blood protein biomarkers can differentiate between children with septic shock who are at high- or low-risk of mortality, according to a new analysis appearing in PLOS One. Researchers from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital and elsewhere tested their Pediatric Sepsis Biomarker Risk Model (PERSEVERE) on 182 one-year-old to 13-year-old children treated for septic shock at various intensive care units. They saw a 34 percent mortality rate in children classified as high-risk by the PERSEVERE method, compared to 3 percent mortality in the low-risk group, suggesting that the blood biomarkers can provide prognostic clues.

Researchers from the US and Canada used 16S ribosomal RNA sequencing to characterize microbial communities in dust samples from different locations within a classroom and an office building with variable layouts, uses, and ventilation sources — work they describe in PLOS One. The analysis uncovered various bacteria from almost 33,000 operational taxonomic units, which were found in communities with structures affected by everything from architectural design and ventilation to use of the space and human movement. "Our study indicates that humans have a guiding impact on the microbial biodiversity in buildings," the study's authors write, "both indirectly through the effects of architectural design on microbial community structure, and more directly through the effects of human occupancy and use patterns on the microbes found in different spaces and space types."

In another PLOS One paper, a team from Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, assessed genome sequences from more than 100 avian influenza viruses, using samples collected from 25 viruses from Newfoundland ducks and another 84 from other ducks in North America's Atlantic flyway. Using genome sequences from the 109 avian influenza virus genomes considered, researchers identified genetic structure and diversity patterns found in the viruses, relationships between the various lineages, and apparent transmission events. For instance, they saw signs of frequent avian influenza virus transmission within North American flyways — particularly a few that neighbored one another — but only rare transmission between hemispheres.