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What's It Called?

With new strains of SARS-CoV-2 emerging, scientists are grappling with what to call them, Nature News writes.

It notes that the variant that was recently identified in the UK was initially called the Variant Under Investigation 202012/01 (VUI 202012/01) then the Variant of Concern 202012/01 (or VOC 202012/01) by Public Health England, but that others dubbed it B.1.1.7 or 20I/501Y.V1, names that reflect its evolutionary relationships, or called it the 'UK variant.' 

"I think all of us are becoming very confused by the different variant names," Maria Van Kerkhove, an infectious disease epidemiologist, said during a World Health Organization meeting on the new variants, according to Nature News.

It adds that researchers want to develop names for these new strains that don't rely on location names — so as to not stigmatize the places they were found — but also don't refer to any one mutation within the strains — so as to not overlook other alterations. However, Nature News notes that the WHO meeting did not come up with a new way of naming emerging strains, though it says there is a working group devoted to the issue.

The Scan

Machine Learning Helps ID Molecular Mechanisms of Pancreatic Islet Beta Cell Subtypes in Type 2 Diabetes

The approach helps overcome limitations of previous studies that had investigated the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic islet beta cells, the authors write in their Nature Genetics paper.

Culture-Based Methods, Shotgun Sequencing Reveal Transmission of Bifidobacterium Strains From Mothers to Infants

In a Nature Communications study, culture-based approaches along with shotgun sequencing give a better picture of the microbial strains transmitted from mothers to infants.

Microbial Communities Can Help Trees Adapt to Changing Climates

Tree seedlings that were inoculated with microbes from dry, warm, or cold sites could better survive drought, heat, and cold stress, according to a study in Science.

A Combination of Genetics and Environment Causes Cleft Lip

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers investigate what combination of genetic and environmental factors come into play to cause cleft lip/palate.