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This Week in PLOS: Feb 2, 2015

Australian and American researchers reporting in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases present evidence for widespread infection by Schistosoma japonicum blood flukes in schistosomiasis-endemic regions in the Philippines. Using fecal samples from 560 individuals living in six schistosomiasis-endemic villages in the Philippines, the team tested a new real-time quantitative PCR assay for S. japonicum infection. The qPCR assay's performance compared favorably with existing microscopy-based methods for schistosomiasis detection, the study's authors note: While the microscopy approach picked up the fluke's presence in around 23 percent of samples, the qPCR method pointed to an S. japonicum prevalence of more than 90 percent.

A Spanish team describes multiplex PCR assays designed to detect and distinguish between Escherichia coli serotypes that produce the so-called Shiga toxin, a compound involved in food-borne infections symptoms that sometimes progress to a serious hemolytic syndrome. As they report in PLOS One, the researchers came up with 21 primer pairs targeting various O-antigens associated with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) or with Shigella bacteria. After demonstrating the specificity of the primer pairs, the team went on to validate three STEC targeting multiplex PCR assays in dozens of E. coli strains within and outside of the targeted serogroups.

German researchers profiled microRNA patterns in tissue and serum samples from individuals with or without urothelial cancer for another PLOS One study. The team tracked levels of 11 miRNAs in tissue samples from 47 upper urinary tract urothelial cancer (UUTUC) patients and 36 controls. It also looked at serum miRNA levels in 44 individuals with UUTUC and 34 without. Eight of the miRNAs showed enhanced expression in tissue from those with urothelial cancer, the authors report, while one of the miRNAs showed a jump in circulating serum samples from UUTUC patients.