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PLOS BLOGS Speaking of Medicine and Health

This Week in PLOS NTDs and PLOS Pathogens: What Defines Degue, Plasmodium’s Protein Origami, Lessons from the Mycetoma Research Centre, and More

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

Gravelat FN, Beauvais A, Liu H, Lee MJ, Snarr BD, et al. (2013). PLoS Pathog 9(8): e1003575. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1003575
Gravelat FN, Beauvais A, Liu H, Lee MJ, Snarr BD, et al. (2013). PLoS Pathog 9(8): e1003575. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1003575

As seen in Sudan and other regions where mycetoma is endemic, many affected patients tend to present advanced symptoms late, choosing first to treat the fungal infection with herbal medicine. This study performed by Drs. Eshraga Ezaldeen, Ahmed Fahal and Anjom Osman demonstrates the prolific use of herbal medicine as experienced at the Mycetoma Research Centre in Khartoum and their efforts to raise patient and community awareness of treatment options.

Momentum is building towards development of a global elimination strategy for canine rabies, but questions remain over the how best to eliminate rabies epidemics. Using data generated from the recent high-profile rabies outbreak in Bali, Indonesia to evaluate different control options, Dr. Sunny Townsend and colleagues find that, despite high dog densities, the spread of rabies on the island was remarkably similar to canine rabies spread elsewhere, suggesting that the practice of dog culling is an ineffective control strategy.

In 2009 the official WHO dengue case definition — in use for over 30 years — was revised, containing fewer symptoms and more signs. In this study, Dr. Gamaliel Gutiérrez and colleagues evaluate the diagnostic utility of both case definitions in children in Managua, Nicaragua using clinical data from suspected dengue patients enrolled at two different sites.

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

The genome sequence of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum revealed lengthy poly-asparagine stretches in many proteins. Discussing the evolution and possible function of the repeats, which in other organisms render proteins vulnerable to aggregation, Drs. Vasant Muralidharan and Daniel Goldberg report in this Pearl also that the protein folding machinery of Plasmodium is surprisingly good at preventing aggregation.

Invasive aspergillosis involves attachment of the fungal hyphae to human cells. Research toward understanding this process by Drs. Thierry Fontaine, Donald Sheppard, and colleagues suggests that GAG functions as glue that mediates attachment between the hyphae and a range of substrates. In addition, GAG camouflages specific features of the hyphae, thereby impairing host immune responses.

Thionins are among the many molecules employed by plants to defend themselves against pathogens. Besides their known role in forcing open pores on the cell surface of a number of pathogens, Drs. Tomoya Asano, Takumi Nishiuchi and colleagues report that thionins also protect plants via interaction with and inactivation of FFBL, a fungal protein that can kill plant cells.

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