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This Week in PNAS: Jul 16, 2013

In the early, online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Washington University researchers report on blood gene expression patterns that show promise for distinguishing childhood fevers caused by viral infections from those that occur during acute bacterial infections. The group used array-based methods to profile whole-blood gene expression patterns in almost three-dozen fever-affected children with either viral or bacterial infections, along with 22 unaffected children. The analysis pointed to distinct blood gene expression profiles in children infected with viruses such as herpesevirus 6 or enterovirus compared to those with acute bacterial infection-associated fevers, study authors note, saying the findings "support the paradigm of using host response to define the etiology of childhood infections."

Information on community-level assemblies can be gleaned by modeling metabolic and other interactions between species found in human microbiome communities, a study by University of Washington researchers suggests. With metagenomic and metabolic information on more than 150 microbial species, the investigators came up with a computational scheme to look at ways in which microbial species co-occur, interact, or even compete. The team's subsequent analysis of datasets from two human gut microbiomes indicated that the same sorts of interaction patterns can also help in unraveling ways in which microbes assembly themselves in human-associated communities.

The University of Arizona's Matthew Sullivan and colleagues from the US and Denmark describe genomes generated for bacteria-infecting ocean viruses from a dozen new genera. The group did genome sequencing and proteomic profiling on 31 phages found in different strains of an aquatic bacterial species called Cellulophaga baltica. The resulting genomes fell into 12 new phage genera and included organisms containing unusual nucleotide metabolism genes. The new genomes turned up in a slew of metagenomic sequence collections from ocean samples, too, suggesting that the newly described C. baltica-infecting viruses turn up fairly frequently in marine environments.