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This Week in PLOS: Jan 14, 2019

In a paper in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, a University of Florida-led team implicates Madariaga virus (MADV) — previously implicated in eastern encephalitis virus in South and Central America — in pediatric acute febrile illness cases found in Haiti. The researchers used RT-PCR to find and characterize MADVs in cultured blood plasma samples from eight children with dengue virus-like symptoms in Haiti, where MADV has not been found in humans or other animals in the past. Based on phylogenetic relationships found in a subset of sequenced isolates, the authors suggest that MADV may have been reached Haiti via Panama between late 2012 or early 2015. "Our data document the movement of MADV into Haiti," they write, "and raise questions about the potential for further spread in the Caribbean or North America." 

Influenza A and B viruses recently circulating in Myanmar appear to be part of a transmission networks that spans other parts of Asia and beyond, according to an international team reporting in PLOS One. When they used rapid diagnostic testing for flu viruses in 2,860 nasopharyngeal swabs from children treated at hospitals at three sites in Myanmar between January, 2010 and December, 2015, the researchers identified 1,577 influenza A cases and 810 cases involving influenza B viruses. And with a combination of RT-PCR, hemagglutinin gene sequencing, and phylogenetics, the authors demonstrated that influenza A and B transmission in and out of Myanmar "is part of the complex migration network in Asia, Oceania, and Europe."

Researchers from the Leibniz Institute DSMZ-German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures outline the feasibility of using a bioinformatic tool called Taxonomer to screen for viral infection in human cell lines for another PLOS One paper. Based on their analyses of more than 300 cell lines assessed by RNA sequencing and/or exome sequencing in the Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia, as well as 60 more cell line exomes, the authors report that "virus infections of cell lines can easily and with high specificity and sensitivity be detected in RNA-seq data sets." In a cell line established from a breast carcinoma, for example, the team saw sequences from the bovine polyomavirus — suspected of stemming from contaminated bovine serum used to help culture the cell line.