This Week in PLOS NTDs and PLOS Pathogens: New Insights Into P. vivax Genome, How Viruses Protect Themselves Against RNA Decay Machinery, Imaging Schisotosomiasis Eggs with Cell Phone Cameras, and More

The following new articles are publishing this week in PLOS NTDs:

Hester J, Chan ER, Menard D, Mercereau-Puijalon O, Barnwell J, et al. (2013). PLoS Negl Trop Dis 7(12): e2569. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002569

Hester J, Chan ER, Menard D, Mercereau-Puijalon O, Barnwell J, et al. (2013). PLoS Negl Trop Dis 7(12): e2569. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002569

P. vivax malaria is poorly understood as the parasite is difficult to study in vitro. In this study James Hester and colleagues use sequence data generated from a field isolate to reconstruct long DNA sequences without relying on the reference genome, revealing many P. vivax DNA sequences that are absent from the reference genome and contain 792 predicted genes. One of these novel genes encodes a predicted protein similar to known Plasmodium proteins involved in red blood cell invasion.

There is a need to develop diagnostic methods for parasitic infections specifically designed for use in resource-deficient situations, and with the proliferation of mobile phones, data transfer networks and digital imaging the stage is set for a new era of field microscopy. Here Ewert Linder and colleagues aim to show, as proof of concept, that it is possible to achieve point-of-care diagnostics by an inexpensive mini-microscope for direct visualization on a display and remote diagnostics by computer vision.

Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia represent the historic endemic region for Lassa fever, although there is increasing evidence of sporadic cases occurring in other West African nations including Mali. David Safronetz and colleagues set out to better define the geographic distribution of LASV-infected rodents – specifically the multimammate rat, Mastomys natalensis – in Mali, testing samples from 27 sites across the country.

The following new articles are publishing this week in PLOS Pathogens:

As soon as foreign viral RNAs appear in the host cell following infection they encounter cellular RNA decay pathways. In their Pearl, Stephanie L. Moon and Jeffrey Wilusz discuss the many ways that viruses protect themselves against or even usurp the host RNA decay machinery—turning what might be hostile territory for a foreign transcript into a ‘‘promised land’’ for viral gene expression.

Vpr is one of four accessory proteins encoded by the HIV genome, and its function in viral replication has been unclear. Kei Sato, Yoshio Koyanagi and colleagues now report that Vpr causes G2 cell cycle arrest and apoptosis predominantly in CCR5+ CD4+ T cells, mainly of fast cycling regulatory T cells, resulting in Treg depletion and enhanced virus production during acute infection.

Brucella melitensis is an intracellular bacterium that replicates within macrophages and dendritic cells, thwarting immune surveillance and complicating therapy and vaccine development. Judith Smith and colleagues describe how Brucella uses its microtubule-binding protein TcpB and potentially other factors to induce the “unfolded protein response” (a common stress response in the host cell’s endoplasmatic reticulum), thereby enabling its own intracellular replication.

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