SciBites: Week of February 10th

SciBites: Week of February 10th

HIV viral load is influenced by both virus and patient genetics

HIV sufferers experience varying rates of disease progression, depending in part on their viral load — the amount of virus present in the body. Researchers collected patient and viral genetic data from 541 people with HIV and investigated the relative impacts of human and viral genetics on viral load. They found that HIV strain variation accounts for 29 percent of differences in viral load, and human genetic variation accounts for 8.4 percent. With a combined influence of just 30 percent, the results suggest that the effects of human genetics on viral load are caused mainly by its influence on which new genetic mutations arise in HIV as the virus multiplies inside the patient.

Livestock constitutes one-quarter of Himalayan snow leopard and wolf diets

When top predators kill livestock, conflict can arise between pastoral communities and these endangered and rare species, impeding their conservation. A new study analyzed DNA and hair in the droppings of snow leopards and Himalayan wolves in Nepal, finding that a substantial 27 percent of the snow leopard diet and 24 percent of the wolf diet were made up of livestock. This highlights the need for further research into the impact of such predation on pastoral communities.

New drug screening method could aid development of a cure for HPV

Six million people are diagnosed with new human papillomavirus (HPV) infections each year in the U.S. alone, but no specific cure for this family of viruses exists. Scientists have now used genetic engineering techniques to create a new high-throughput screening method that can identify potentially effective drugs and drug targets, considering the full viral genome and all its life cycle stages to increase the chance of success. When tested on 1,000 chemical compounds, the method identified several that were capable of blocking the growth of certain HPV strains, and the authors believe that their method could be an effective tool in drug development.

Image Credit: Madhu Chetri


Beth works at PLOS as Journal Media Manager. She read Natural Sciences, specializing in Pathology, at the University of Cambridge before joining PLOS in 2013. She feels fortunate to be able to read and write about the exciting new research published by PLOS.

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