In this week's Nature, two University of Washington researchers discuss the lack of diversity in genomic research, calling it "an embarrassing bias" for the field. They note that a 2009 investigation showed that 96 percent of the participants in genome-wide association studies were of European descent and that while the proportion of samples from non-European individuals has increased to nearly 20 percent since then, this is primarily due to increased studies of Asian populations. The authors urge a prioritization of genome studies in non-European populations — particularly African, Latin American, Hispanic, and native populations — to ensure that the benefits of such research can be realized by all.
And in Nature Communications, a group led by Vanderbilt University researchers presents data showing that a bacteria-infecting virus shares DNA with certain animals, including the black widow spider. The team sequenced the genome of phage WO, a virus that infects the bacteria Wolbachia and discovered that a section of its genome contains eukaryotic-like genes that are closely related to insect and spider genes responsible for toxins, mediating host-microbe interactions, host cell suicide, and transport across cell membranes. The investigators speculate that since Wolbachia infects spiders and insect cells, these genes may help the virus infiltrate animal cells to reach its bacteria target. They also suspect that the genes originated in animals before being incorporated into the virus, but the route of transmission remains unclear.