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This Week in Science: Oct 12, 2018

In Science this week, an international research team reports that a significant number of individuals can be identified by their DNA using data from open genetic genealogy databases — even if these individuals have not undergone genetic testing themselves. The team analyzed a dataset of more than 1.2 million anonymous individuals who underwent genomic sequencing using a consumer genomics service from MyHeritage, and find that more than 60 percent of the searches for individuals of European descent will result in a third cousin or closer match, which can allow their identification using demographic identifiers. "Moreover, the technique could implicate nearly any US-individual of European descent in the near future," the researchers warn. A potential mitigation strategy and policy implications of these findings is also discussed. GenomeWeb has more on this study, here.

Also in Science, a group of scientists from Europe and Asia presents a study suggesting that bacteria use a unique form of genetic transduction that contributes to its ability to generate genetic variability, rapidly adapt to different environments, and disperse key genes such as ones related to antibiotic resistance. The investigators find that prophages infecting Staphylococcus aureus engage in lateral transduction, wherein they do not excise from the bacterium's chromosome until late in the virus life cycle. "DNA packaging initiates in situ from integrated prophages, and large metameric spans including several hundred kilobases of the S. aureus genome are packaged in phage heads at very high frequency," the researchers say. "In situ replication before DNA packaging creates multiple prophage genomes so that lateral-transducing particles form during normal phage maturation, transforming parts of the S. aureuschromosome into hypermobile regions of gene transfer."

The Scan

Genetic Ancestry of South America's Indigenous Mapuche Traced

Researchers in Current Biology analyzed genome-wide data from more than five dozen Mapuche individuals to better understand their genetic history.

Study Finds Variants Linked to Diverticular Disease, Presents Polygenic Score

A new study in Cell Genomics reports on more than 150 genetic variants associated with risk of diverticular disease.

Mild, Severe Psoriasis Marked by Different Molecular Features, Spatial Transcriptomic Analysis Finds

A spatial transcriptomics paper in Science Immunology finds differences in cell and signaling pathway activity between mild and severe psoriasis.

ChatGPT Does As Well As Humans Answering Genetics Questions, Study Finds

Researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics had ChatGPT answer genetics-related questions, finding it was about 68 percent accurate, but sometimes gave different answers to the same question.