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This Week in PLOS: Mar 28, 2016

A team from Australia, the US, and Singapore describes a crucial role for the host enzyme fibrillarin during infection by henipaviruses such as the Hendra virus or Nipah virus — bat-borne viruses that are studied in level 4 biosafety facilities due to their pathogenicity. As they report in PLOS Pathogens, the researchers used a genome-wide small interfering RNA screen to search for genetic vulnerabilities in human cells infected by henipavirus. From the nearly 600 human host proteins that seemed to impact henipavirus infection, they saw the most pronounced role for fibrillarin, a nucleolar methyltransferase enzyme, which appeared to influence the RNA replication and protein synthesis prowess of the henipavirus.

In PLOS One, researchers from the US and Bangladesh look at influenza A virus features found in low pathogenicity bird flu subtypes isolated from poultry in Bangladeshi live bird markets and backyard flocks. After testing more than 500 avian samples, the team narrowed in on 50 avian influenza-positive samples for subsequent subtyping and genome sequencing. The search uncovered more than a dozen avian influenza A subtypes, which most often contained gene segments resembling bird flu viruses previously described in wild birds or poultry from Southeast Asia, Europe, or northern Africa. The investigators considered not only the geographic distribution of the low pathogenicity subtypes, but also relationships and reassortments between the strains detected in Bangladesh.

An international team led by investigators at Cornell University and Tel Aviv University describe ancestry patterns identified in individuals from the Bene Israel population in West India for another PLOS One paper. The researchers compared array-based genotyping profiles for 18 Bene Israel individuals with SNP patterns present in hundreds of individuals from Jewish, Indian, or Pakistani population and beyond. Their results suggest that while the Bene Israel individuals share genetic features with nearby populations in India, they have ancestry from both Indian and Middle Eastern Jewish populations, likely reflecting an admixture event that took place some 19 to 33 generations ago.