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PLOS BLOGS Speaking of Medicine

This Week in PLOS NTDs and PLOS Pathogens: the Crisis in U.S. Science Funding, HIV Superinfection Rates in Women, the Phylogeography of JEV, and More

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

Phommasone K, Paris DH, Anantatat T, Castonguay-Vanier J, Keomany S, et al. (2013). PLoS Negl Trop Dis 7(8): e2163. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002163
Phommasone K, Paris DH, Anantatat T, Castonguay-Vanier J, Keomany S, et al. (2013). PLoS Negl Trop Dis 7(8): e2163. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002163

Drs. A. Desiree LaBeaud and Hannah McKeating explore the consequences of declining funding in America for all kinds of research, includeing NTDs. New scientists attempting to secure R01 grants, as well as their more experienced colleagues trying to renew theirs, have run into insurmountable funding difficulties in this current fiscal climate, placing careers at risk and the nation in peril of falling behind the curve in vital research.

Little is known about the evolution, geographical distribution and epidemiology of the five JEV genotypes. To address this gap, Dr. Amy Schuh and colleagues performed a genetic-based geographical analysis using the largest JEV sequence dataset assembled to date, including 487 viral sequences sampled from 12 countries over 75 years, showing that the dominant genotypes find winter shelter in hibernating mosquitoes, among other findings.

The World Health Organization recommends at least 3 annual antibiotic mass drug administrations (MDA) where the prevalence of trachoma is >10% in children ages 1-9 years. Sampling from 32 randomized communities in Kongwa, Tanzania, Dr. Sheila West and colleagues find that the WHO’s recommendation falls short of what is necessary for an MDA to achieve maximum efficacy, even with high coverage rates.

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

As Drs. Amir Sharon and Neta Shlezinger discuss in their Pearl, closely related fungi use common mechanisms to attack a range of different hosts, from plants to animals. The authors argue that this warrants revisiting the way we think about fungal pathogens across kingdoms and species. They propose that pathogenic fungi be divided into killers and non-killers, depending on whether they immediately kill host cells or prevent their death.

Infection of HIV positive individuals with a second HIV virus is known to happen. Dr. Julie Overbaugh and colleagues studied the frequency of this so-called superinfection in a high-risk cohort of Kenyan women and found that was lower by about half than the risk of becoming infected for the first time. This suggests the existence of a partially effective immune response to an initial HIV infection, with implications for HIV vaccine design.

Multidrug resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae strains present an increasingly serious threat to sexual health. After discovery of a common sugar structure on 95% of gonococci in the human genital tract, Dr. Peter Rice and colleagues went on to develop peptide “lookalikes” which were able to induce a specific antibody response in mice and accelerate clearance of infection. These results might help with the development of a gonorrhea vaccine.

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