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Nature Include Analysis of Athletes' Gut Microbes, More

The presence of a certain bacterium in the guts of runners may help boost athletic performance, according to a report in this week's Nature Medicine. A group led by Harvard University investigators analyzed stool samples from 15 long-distance runners for one week before and one week after the runners participated in the Boston Marathon. When compared with non-runner controls, the scientists find that bacteria of the genus Veillonella was more abundant in the stool of athletes after the race. Further analyses showed that inoculating mice with V. atypica could increase the animals' treadmill run time. Noting that Veillonella consumes lactate — a metabolite linked with exercise fatigue — the investigators performed shotgun metagenomic in a cohort of elite athletes and find that every gene in a major pathway metabolizing lactate to propionate is at higher relative abundance following exercise. "Taken together, these studies reveal ... a natural, microbiome-encoded enzymatic process that enhances athletic performance," the scientists state. GenomeWeb has more on this, here

A new genomic analysis appearing in Nature Ecology & Evolution sheds light on how the potato — a key staple crop that originated in the equatorial Andes — adapted to the environmental conditions of Europe following its introduction to the continent in the 16th century. A team led by Max Planck researchers sequenced 88 potatoes, including landraces, modern cultivars, and historical herbarium samples. They find that European potatoes collected between the years 1650 and 1750 were closely related to Andean landraces, but admixed with Chilean potatoes in years after their introduction to Europe. Other findings include the presence of genes ostensibly involved in the potato's adaption to Europe's longer days in 19th century samples, but not in ones from 1650 to 1750. "Our study highlights the power of combining contemporary and historical genomes to understand the complex evolutionary history of crop adaptation to new environments," the authors write.

A team from the University of East Anglia's Quadram Institute Bioscience has developed a new nanopore metagenomic sequencing approach for diagnosing infectious disease, reporting data on its use in lower respiratory infections in Nature Biotechnology this week. The method relies on depleting human host DNA, and the investigators show that it was 96.6 percent sensitive and 41.7 percent specific for pathogen detection compared with culture. It could also accurately detect antibiotic resistance genes. The approach is now being tested in the clinic and could lead to the development of similar methods for diagnosing meningitis and infections caused by joint replacements. GenomeWeb covered this previously, here.