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Ancient Analysis Provides Clues to Medieval Pathogen Genetics, Points to Co-Infections

For a paper in Genome Biology, a team at Kiel University and other centers in Germany and the UK present findings from a pathogen screening study centered on samples from the 5th to 8th centuries at sites in what is now rural Germany. The researchers turned to metagenomic sequencing to screen for bacteria and viruses in dozens of individuals buried at a Lauchheim settlement, identifying infections with pathogens such as hepatitis B virus, parvovirus B19, variola virus, or Mycobacterium leprae in 22 individuals, or around one-third of individuals profiled. The sequences data made it possible to put together genomes for parvovirus B19, variola virus, Mycobacterium leprae, and four HBV isolates, while profiling pathogen diversity, and identifying individuals with co-infections involving multiple pathogens. Together, the findings point to the possibility of high infectious disease rates in the region during the so-called "Late Antique Little Ice Age" (LALIA), the authors say. "Our findings suggest that LALIA may have created an ecological context in which persistent outbreaks set the stage for major epidemics of severe diseases such as leprosy and smallpox hundreds of years later," they write.

The Scan

ChatGPT Does As Well As Humans Answering Genetics Questions, Study Finds

Researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics had ChatGPT answer genetics-related questions, finding it was about 68 percent accurate, but sometimes gave different answers to the same question.

Sequencing Analysis Examines Gene Regulatory Networks of Honeybee Soldier, Forager Brains

Researchers in Nature Ecology & Evolution find structural network differences between soldiers and foragers, suggesting bees can take on either role.

Analysis of Ashkenazi Jewish Cohort Uncovers New Genetic Loci Linked to Alzheimer's Disease

The study in Alzheimer's & Dementia highlighted known genes, but also novel ones with biological ties to Alzheimer's disease.

Tara Pacific Expedition Project Team Finds High Diversity Within Coral Reef Microbiome

In papers appearing in Nature Communications and elsewhere, the team reports on findings from the two-year excursion examining coral reefs.