SciBites: Week of March 24th

SciBites: Week of March 24th

Settlers and nomads may have cooperated on the frontier of the Roman Empire

Historians tell of Huns and other nomads attacking settlements on the edge of the Roman Empire during the fifth century. However, analysis of isotopes in bone collagen, dentine and tooth enamel from five fifth-century cemeteries in modern-day Hungary show dietary changes that may reflect coexistence and cooperation between these groups. “Written sources tell us of violence, treachery and treaties that were broken as soon as they were made, but this was not the whole story,” says Susanne Hakenbeck, the lead author on this recently published study. “Our research gives an insight into ordinary people’s lives along the late Roman frontier, where nomadic animal herders could become farmers and farmers could become herders.”

Risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease may be estimated from several genetic markers

New research in PLOS Medicine describes a risk score derived from genetic data that may be able to estimate an individual’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease at any given age over 60. The researchers identified genetic variants associated with Alzheimer’s using data from the International Genomics of Alzheimer’s Project, which involved 17,008 older people with Alzheimer’s and 37,154 without. Then they used the identified variants to derive risk scores for 6,409 older people with Alzheimer’s and 9,386 without, who were all involved with the Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics Consortium (ADGC). By combining these scores with known population-based Alzheimer’s rates, the researchers were able to estimate each person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s, based on their genetics and age.

Mosquito monitoring is not a good indicator of dengue risk

Because infected mosquitos – most commonly Aedes aegypti – can carry the dengue virus and transfer it to humans through bites, researchers and policymakers have traditionally monitored mosquito abundance in communities to estimate risk of dengue and target areas for intervention programs. However, a new PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases study reveals that this method of dengue control may not be very effective, since the researchers found no association between Aedes aegypti abundance and the risk of infection with dengue virus, as measured by blood tests from 3,824 individuals over the span of seven years. The researchers say, “Dengue control programs weighing the operational feasibility and cost of entomological monitoring against the limited utility of these indicators may wish to seek alternative monitoring frameworks that incorporate human dengue-related outcomes, such as passive case detection and, when possible, sero-surveys and active case detection.”

Image Credit: Erzsébet Fóthi, Hungarian Natural History Museum Budapest


Tessa is the Journal Media Manager at PLOS. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with degrees in Rhetoric and Music. She can be reached by email at and on Twitter at @tessagregs.

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