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This Week in PLOS: Oct 30, 2017

A Russia-led team takes a look at Yersinia pestis plague patterns in Kyrgyzstan for a paper appearing in PLOS One. Using a combination of PCR, SNP typing, and/or whole-genome sequencing, the researchers traced genetic profiles for Y. pestis in 56 strains collected at rugged, high mountain sites in Kyrgyzstan over roughly five decades. Based on their phylogenetic analyses of the strains — mainly collected from fleas found on two marmot species — they argue that a 0.ANT lineage believed to be ancestral to very virulent Y. pestis strains likely originated in the Kyrgyzstan's Tien Shan mountain region. "High mountain foci of Kyrgyzstan with their mosaic, specific relief, diversity of climatic conditions and species of flora and fauna composition, served as a favorable environment for the settling down of the strains," the authors write, "representing different waves of Y. pestis outspread." 

Researchers from Cornell University and Chandler-Gilbert Community College characterize transcriptomic features in canine meningioma for another PLOS One paper. The team did RNA sequencing on 11 formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded primary canine meningiomas, two meningioma samples that were flash frozen, and three unaffected canine meninges samples, in the hopes of understanding the pooch form of the intracranial tumors and better modeling human forms of the condition. In the process, the investigators identified 125 differentially expressed genes in the grade I or II meningiomas considered, including a dozen genes that they subsequently validated by quantitative PCR.

In PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, members of the H3Africa Consortium describe variants with potential ties to human trypanosomiasis susceptibility in Côte d'Ivoire. To explore genetic features influencing clinical outcomes associated with tsetse fly-transmitted Trypanosoma brucei gambiense parasite infections, the researchers compared SNP profiles across 16 candidate genes in hundreds of individuals with or without sleeping sickness, including 100 individuals with active human trypanosomiasis, 33 individuals with latent T. b. gambiense, and 100 uninfected controls. The approach led to several suggestive associations at SNPs spanning half a dozen genes, which appeared to differ in prevalence depending on the presence and type of T. b. gambiense infection.