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This Week in Science: May 5, 2017

In this week's Science, a group of French scientists publishes a genomic analysis of various African populations that offers insights into the dispersal and genetic adaptation of Bantu-speaking peoples, who currently account for one-third of sub-Saharan Africans. The team generated genomic data for 1,318 individuals from 35 populations in western central Africa where Bantu languages originated, finding that early Bantu-speaking people first moved southward through the equatorial rainforest before spreading toward eastern and southern Africa. They also discovered that genetic adaptation of Bantu speakers was facilitated by admixture with local populations, and uncovered a major contribution of western central African Bantu speakers to the ancestry of African Americans. GenomeWeb has more on this, here.

And in Science Translational Medicine, an international research team presents a fast, sensitive, and inexpensive test for Zika virus that can not only detect the virus in mosquitoes and human bodily fluids, but can also distinguish between African and Asian strains. The assay is based on loop-mediated isothermal amplification — or LAMP — and does not detect chikungunya virus or flaviviruses, eliminating false positives for the closely related pathogens. The researchers show that the test directly detects Zika virus RNA in cultured infected cells; in mosquitoes; in virus-spiked samples of human blood, plasma, saliva, urine, and semen; and in infected patient serum, plasma, and semen samples without the need for RNA isolation or reverse transcription. GenomeWeb also covers this study, here.