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This Week in PLOS: Jun 4, 2018

A team from Argentina, the UK, and the US point to a DNA-based approach for diagnosing parasitic strongyloidiasis infections (involving the nematode Strongyloides stercoralis) from host urine samples for a paper appearing in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. Based on prior research suggesting cell-free parasite DNA can make its way into host urine, the researchers tested hundreds of field samples from Argentina, comparing three approaches for detecting infection by the soil-transmitted S. stercoralis worm: a recommended stool examination-based method, ELISA-based serological testing, and parasite DNA detection in patient urine samples. The authors report that their results "underscore the low sensitivity of stool examination and support the idea that the use of serology combined with parasite transrenal DNA detection may be a useful strategy for sensitive and specific detection of low-level strongyloidiasis.

 In PLOS Pathogens, researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch describe a potential strategy for dialing down PARP1 activity in an effort to mitigate some of the consequences of Chagas disease, a condition caused by infection with the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite that can led to cardiomyopathay and, in some cases, heart failure. After seeing signs that chronic T. cruzi infection could dial up PARP1 expression in myocyte muscles cells from humans and mice, the team explored the consequences of that activity in different parts of the cell, uncovering mitochondrial interference, mitochondrial loss, and oxidative phosphorylation problems that appeared to stem from the enhanced PARP1 activity. On the other hand, the authors report, a PARP1 inhibitor appeared to staunch that process in mice, thwarting some of the oxidative stress and cardiac problems associated with ongoing T. cruzi infection.

Finally, a Polish team reporting in PLOS One describes breed-specific SNPs in Bos taurus cattle, which are expected to serve as a resource for future genome-wide association and other genetic studies in cattle. The researchers put together reference genomes for seven cattle breeds using whole-genome sequence data for more than 900 bulls profiled for the 1000 Bull Genomes resource. They then picked out breed-specific SNPs — which appeared to be most common in Jersey breed, but relatively uncommon in the Simmental cattle — and narrowed in on those variants falling in protein-coding portions of the genome. "[S]ince the analyzed breeds differ in many aspects such as meatiness, milkiness, fertility, and so on," the authors say, "genomic differences between breeds were translated into the functional genomic features by functional annotation of breed-specific SNPs."

The Scan

Machine Learning Helps ID Molecular Mechanisms of Pancreatic Islet Beta Cell Subtypes in Type 2 Diabetes

The approach helps overcome limitations of previous studies that had investigated the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic islet beta cells, the authors write in their Nature Genetics paper.

Culture-Based Methods, Shotgun Sequencing Reveal Transmission of Bifidobacterium Strains From Mothers to Infants

In a Nature Communications study, culture-based approaches along with shotgun sequencing give a better picture of the microbial strains transmitted from mothers to infants.

Microbial Communities Can Help Trees Adapt to Changing Climates

Tree seedlings that were inoculated with microbes from dry, warm, or cold sites could better survive drought, heat, and cold stress, according to a study in Science.

A Combination of Genetics and Environment Causes Cleft Lip

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers investigate what combination of genetic and environmental factors come into play to cause cleft lip/palate.