New and Exciting in PLoS Medicine and PLoS Biology

The Evolution of Norovirus, the 'Gastric Flu' and Mechanisms of GII.4 Norovirus Persistence in Human Populations:

Noroviruses are the leading cause of viral acute gastroenteritis in humans, noted for causing epidemic outbreaks in communities, the military, cruise ships, hospitals, and assisted living communities. The evolutionary mechanisms governing the persistence and emergence of new norovirus strains in human populations are unknown. Primarily organized by sequence homology into two major human genogroups defined by multiple genoclusters, the majority of norovirus outbreaks are caused by viruses from the GII.4 genocluster, which was first recognized as the major epidemic strain in the mid-1990s. Previous studies by our laboratory and others indicate that some noroviruses readily infect individuals who carry a gene encoding a functional alpha-1,2-fucosyltransferase (FUT2) and are designated "secretor-positive" to indicate that they express ABH histo-blood group antigens (HBGAs), a highly heterogeneous group of related carbohydrates on mucosal surfaces. Individuals with defects in the FUT2 gene are termed secretor-negative, do not express the appropriate HBGA necessary for docking, and are resistant to Norwalk infection. These data argue that FUT2 and other genes encoding enzymes that regulate processing of the HBGA carbohydrates function as susceptibility alleles. However, secretor-negative individuals can be infected with other norovirus strains, and reinfection with the GII.4 strains is common in human populations. In this article, we analyze molecular mechanisms governing GII.4 epidemiology, susceptibility, and persistence in human populations.

Can Farmed and Wild Salmon Coexist? and A Global Assessment of Salmon Aquaculture Impacts on Wild Salmonids:

The impact of salmon farming on wild salmon and trout is a hotly debated issue in all countries where salmon farms and wild salmon coexist. Studies have clearly shown that escaped farm salmon breed with wild populations to the detriment of the wild stocks, and that diseases and parasites are passed from farm to wild salmon. An understanding of the importance of these impacts at the population level, however, has been lacking. In this study, we used existing data on salmon populations to compare survival of salmon and trout that swim past salmon farms early in their life cycle with the survival of nearby populations that are not exposed to salmon farms. We have detected a significant decline in survival of populations that are exposed to salmon farms, correlated with the increase in farmed salmon production in five regions. Combining the regional estimates statistically, we find a reduction in survival or abundance of wild populations of more than 50% per generation on average, associated with salmon farming. Many of the salmon populations we investigated are at dramatically reduced abundance, and reducing threats to them is necessary for their survival. Reducing impacts of salmon farming on wild salmon should be a high priority.

No Place for Predators?:

Time and again, advancing civilization has set people against large carnivores. On the front lines of Washington State, wildlife biologists hope that knowledge can trump fear, and ultimately lead to detente.

Seymour Benzer 1921-2007 The Man Who Took Us from Genes to Behaviour:

Seymour Benzer died suddenly in December 2007. William Harris pays tribute to Benzer's pioneering work in solid state physics, molecular biology, and neurogenetics.

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