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PLOS Studies of Sugarcane Agronomic Traits, Breastfeeding's Influence on Genetic Risk of Obesity, More

Through genotyping and a genome-wide association study, researchers from the US and China uncovered genetic markers associated with desired agronomic traits in sugarcane. As they report in PLOS One, the researchers evaluated more than two dozen agronomic traits within a panel of 236 elite sugarcane germplasms from 12 countries to uncover three amplified fragment length polymorphism markers significantly associated with aerial root, laminal color, and fiber content. According to the researchers, these markers could, if validated, "be further used for quick selection of desirable sugarcane parental materials and progeny."

Exclusive breastfeeding can modulate body-mass index among individuals at genetic risk of increased BMI and obesity, a study in PLOS Genetics reports. Researchers from the University of Toronto and Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto developed a genetic risk score for obesity consisting of 69 genetic variants, which they applied to a cohort of more than 5,000 children. At the same time, they followed the children longitudinally to evaluate the role of breastfeeding. Among children with high genetic risk of obesity, those who were exclusively breastfed until the age of five months had a reduced BMI by 1.14 kg/m2 by the age of 18 for boys and by 1.53 kg/m2 by the same age for girls. "Our study suggests that interventions aimed at reducing the risks of overweight and obesity across the lifespan should start in very early childhood to be impactful, which makes EBF a key candidate intervention," the researchers wrote.

A University of California, Davis-led team of researchers sequenced the genomes of contemporary and historical samples of St. Louis encephalitis virus, a flavivirus that is spread by mosquitoes and causes neurological disease among humans, and can also infect birds. As they report in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, the researchers conducted a phylogenetic analysis of these samples to uncover three viral dispersal routes: Arizona to southern California, Arizona to Central California, and Arizona to all points east of the Sierra Nevadas. This finding, the researchers say, indicates that mountain ranges may serve as a natural barrier to viral dispersal. "Understanding natural barriers to virus dissemination may allow public health officials to exploit geographic features affecting arbovirus spread to better protect local communities and to tailor mitigation strategies to areas that are more susceptible to virus migration, such as low-elevation valleys," the team writes.