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This Week in PLOS: Jan 25, 2016

In PLOS One, an international team led by investigators at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign describes variant differences between scout and recruit bees in the forager caste of honeybees, Apis mellifera. The researchers identified more than 1.4 million SNP sites in the honeybee genome through whole-genome sequencing on 44 scout forager or recruit forager individuals. Their search led to variants at 137 sites in the genome that appeared to coincide with scouting behavior, in which forager bees search for nutritional stores and bring word back to the hive about what they're found. Many of the scout-associated variants fell in and around genes related to brain function, immunity, and other process, the authors note.

Researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Colorado State University, and the National Institutes of Health discuss intra-host diversity they detected in Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in another PLOS One paper. Using a combination of multiplex RT-PCR and deep sequencing on nasal swab samples from three camels infected with a human MERS-CoV isolate, the team tracked down just five mutations within the MERS-CoV consensus genome sequence. On the other hand, nearly 500 SNPs turned up in sequenced samples within individual host animals, the authors say, noting that "[m]any of these variants were present at high frequencies and could potentially influence viral phenotype and adversely affect the sensitivity of detection assays that target these regions for primer or probe binding."

Finally, a New Caledonia-led team tracked genetic diversity in Pacific Island populations of Aedes aegypti, mosquitoes capable of carrying arboviruses such dengue, chikungunya, and Zika viruses. As the report in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, the researchers scrutinized nine microsatellite markers and two mitochondrial DNA sequences in 270 Ae. aegypti mosquitoes samples at sites in New Caledonia, Fiji, Tonga, and French Polynesia. Their phylogenetic analyses suggest the Pacific Island Ae. aegypti mosquitoes originated from sites in Asia and the Americas and pointed to the presence of genetically heterogeneous populations that clustered into western, central, and eastern groups in the Pacific.