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This Week in PLOS: Apr 6, 2015

In PLOS Pathogens, a Nanjing Agricultural University-led team used genomics and transcriptomics to evaluate an aggressive strain of the rice blast pathogen Magnaporthe oryzae isolate 98-06. From the genes identified — and their expression patterns — the researchers narrowed in on 1.4 million bases of sequence that are present in 98-06, but missing in a previously sequenced reference strain of the rice blast pest. They also detected distinct expression profiles involving dozens of pathogenicity-related genes and uncovered 134 effector sequences suspected of aiding aspects of rice infection.

Researchers from Germany used comparative genomics to assess two new strains of Escherichia coli that can produce the Shiga toxin — work they describe in PLOS One. The team did genome sequencing on two Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O104:H4 strains detected in Germany during the surveillance period following a large outbreak in 2011 that affected thousands of individuals and caused 53 deaths. The isolates attracted the researchers' attention based on differences from the epidemic strain. Indeed, when they compared the two new STEC O104:H4 strains with 10 epidemic strain isolates, they found that they were phylogenetically distinct and not likely linked to the 2011 outbreak.

A PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases study used genome sequences to trace the Mycobacterium ulcerans genotypes behind a Buruli ulcer epidemic in Ghana. A team from Ghana, Belgium, and Australia did genome sequencing on 18 clinical M. ulcerans isolates collected in and around Ghana's Ashanti region. When they compared these sequences to one another and to those of 15 previously sequenced M. ulcerans isolates from other parts of Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria, the researchers found evidence for at least two M. ulcerans introductions to Ghana. Whereas one Buruli ulcer-causing M. ulcerans genotype in the Ashanti region resembled that in neighboring parts of the country, another was more similar to M. ulcerans isolates circulating in Nigeria.