Publications by authors named "David Robertson"

551 Publications

Changes to virus taxonomy and to the International Code of Virus Classification and Nomenclature ratified by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (2021).

Arch Virol 2021 Jul 6. Epub 2021 Jul 6.

KU Leuven, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Transplantation, Rega Institute for Medical Research, Clinical and Epidemiological Virology, Institute for the Future, 3000, Leuven, Belgium.

This article reports the changes to virus taxonomy approved and ratified by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) in March 2021. The entire ICTV was invited to vote on 290 taxonomic proposals approved by the ICTV Executive Committee at its meeting in October 2020, as well as on the proposed revision of the International Code of Virus Classification and Nomenclature (ICVCN). All proposals and the revision were ratified by an absolute majority of the ICTV members. Of note, ICTV mandated a uniform rule for virus species naming, which will follow the binomial 'genus-species' format with or without Latinized species epithets. The Study Groups are requested to convert all previously established species names to the new format. ICTV has also abolished the notion of a type species, i.e., a species chosen to serve as a name-bearing type of a virus genus. The remit of ICTV has been clarified through an official definition of 'virus' and several other types of mobile genetic elements. The ICVCN and ICTV Statutes have been amended to reflect these changes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00705-021-05156-1DOI Listing
July 2021

Improvement in the appearance of cellulite and skin laxity resulting from a single treatment with acoustic subcision: Findings from a multicenter pivotal clinical trial.

Lasers Surg Med 2021 Jul 5. Epub 2021 Jul 5.

SkinCare Physicians of Chestnut Hill, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA.

Introduction And Objectives: Surface depressions and skin laxity together play a role in the appearance of cellulite. Cellulite depressions can be improved through disruption of the subcutaneous fibrous structures. Some currently utilized approaches accomplish this through invasive techniques requiring local anesthesia and potential down time. Skin laxity can exacerbate the appearance of cellulite, however current invasive approaches do little to improve skin laxity. The objective of this study was to evaluate a noninvasive approach to improving both cellulite depressions and skin laxity through the use of rapid acoustic pulses (acoustic subcision). Safety, efficacy, tolerability, and participant satisfaction results were measured.

Methods: Women (n = 56) with moderate to severe cellulite were treated in a single acoustic subcision treatment session without anesthesia. Posttreatment adverse events (AEs) and tolerability were recorded. At 12-weeks cellulite outcomes were assessed using a 6-point simplified Cellulite Severity Scale (CSS), Global Aesthetic Improvement Scale (GAIS), and a participant satisfaction questionnaire. Additionally, laxity improvement was measured using a 4-point Laxity Score (LS) and GAIS.

Results: Improvement in cellulite appearance measured at 12-weeks showed that participants (n = 56) had a mean CSS reduction of 1.01 (a 29.5% reduction from baseline). The posttreatment photograph was correctly identified by blinded independent reviewers from randomized pairs of pre/posttreatment photographs for 96.4% of participants. Cellulite was graded as improved, much improved or very much improved using the GAIS at 90.9% of treated locations. Finally, 92.9% of participants reported positive satisfaction responses. Scoring for improvement in skin laxity appearance at 12-weeks showed a mean LS reduction of 0.57 (a 27.9% reduction from baseline). GAIS for laxity was graded as improved, much improved or very much improved in 67.3% of treated areas. No unexpected or serious AEs were noted at treatment or follow-up. Overall average pain score during treatment was 2.4 (0-10 pain scale) and 0.3 immediately posttreatment.

Conclusion: A single noninvasive acoustic subcision session can safely provide meaningful improvement in the appearance of cellulite in terms of depressions, as well as skin laxity, with minimal treatment pain and no posttreatment down time. Further improvement in appearance is expected with multiple treatments over time. Additional trials to verify this are planned.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/lsm.23448DOI Listing
July 2021

Investigation of Salmonella Phage-Bacteria Infection Profiles: Network Structure Reveals a Gradient of Target-Range from Generalist to Specialist Phage Clones in Nested Subsets.

Viruses 2021 Jun 28;13(7). Epub 2021 Jun 28.

Division of Evolution and Genomic Sciences, The University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9GB, UK.

Bacteriophages that lyse Salmonella enterica are potential tools to target and control Salmonella infections. Investigating the host range of Salmonella phages is a key to understand their impact on bacterial ecology, coevolution and inform their use in intervention strategies. Virus-host infection networks have been used to characterize the "predator-prey" interactions between phages and bacteria and provide insights into host range and specificity. Here, we characterize the target-range and infection profiles of 13 Salmonella phage clones against a diverse set of 141 Salmonella strains. The environmental source and taxonomy contributed to the observed infection profiles, and genetically proximal phages shared similar infection profiles. Using in vitro infection data, we analyzed the structure of the Salmonella phage-bacteria infection network. The network has a non-random nested organization and weak modularity suggesting a gradient of target-range from generalist to specialist species with nested subsets, which are also observed within and across the different phage infection profile groups. Our results have implications for our understanding of the coevolutionary mechanisms shaping the ecological interactions between Salmonella phages and their bacterial hosts and can inform strategies for targeting Salmonella enterica with specific phage preparations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/v13071261DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8310288PMC
June 2021

Recurrent emergence of SARS-CoV-2 spike deletion H69/V70 and its role in the Alpha variant B.1.1.7.

Cell Rep 2021 06 8;35(13):109292. Epub 2021 Jun 8.

Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology & Infectious Disease (CITIID), Cambridge, UK; Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK; Africa Health Research Institute, Durban, South Africa. Electronic address:

We report severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) spike ΔH69/V70 in multiple independent lineages, often occurring after acquisition of receptor binding motif replacements such as N439K and Y453F, known to increase binding affinity to the ACE2 receptor and confer antibody escape. In vitro, we show that, although ΔH69/V70 itself is not an antibody evasion mechanism, it increases infectivity associated with enhanced incorporation of cleaved spike into virions. ΔH69/V70 is able to partially rescue infectivity of spike proteins that have acquired N439K and Y453F escape mutations by increased spike incorporation. In addition, replacement of the H69 and V70 residues in the Alpha variant B.1.1.7 spike (where ΔH69/V70 occurs naturally) impairs spike incorporation and entry efficiency of the B.1.1.7 spike pseudotyped virus. Alpha variant B.1.1.7 spike mediates faster kinetics of cell-cell fusion than wild-type Wuhan-1 D614G, dependent on ΔH69/V70. Therefore, as ΔH69/V70 compensates for immune escape mutations that impair infectivity, continued surveillance for deletions with functional effects is warranted.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2021.109292DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8185188PMC
June 2021

Of Mice and Schoolchildren: A Conceptual History of Herd Immunity.

Authors:
David Robertson

Am J Public Health 2021 Jun 10:e1-e8. Epub 2021 Jun 10.

David Robertson is a doctoral candidate in the Program in the History of Science, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ. He is affiliated with the project "Rethinking Science and Public Participation" (PI: Bruno J. Strasser), University of Geneva, Switzerland.

This article explores a tension at the core of the concept of herd immunity that has been overlooked in public and scientific discussions‒namely: how can immunity, a phenomenon of individual biological defenses, be made relevant to populations? How can collectives be considered "immune"? Over the course of more than a century of use of the term, scientists have developed many different understandings of the concept in response to this inherent tension. Originating among veterinary scientists in the United States in the late 19th century, the concept was adopted by British scientists researching human infectious disease by the early 1920s. It soon became a staple concept for epidemiologists interested in disease ecology, helping to articulate the population dynamics of diseases such as diphtheria and influenza. Finally, though more traditional understandings of the concept remained in scientific use, in the era after World War II, it increasingly came to signal the objective and outcome of mass vaccination. Recognizing the complexity of scientific efforts to resolve the paradox of herd immunity may help us consider the best distribution of immunity against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).(. Published online ahead of print June 10, 2021: e1-e8. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2021.306264).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2021.306264DOI Listing
June 2021

Challenges in Measuring AMH in the Clinical Setting.

Front Endocrinol (Lausanne) 2021 24;12:691432. Epub 2021 May 24.

Discipline of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, School of Women's & Children's Health, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Serum anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) is a widely used marker of functional ovarian reserve in the assessment and treatment of infertility. It is used to determine dosing of gonadotropins used for superovulation prior to fertilization, as well as to determine the degree of damage to ovarian reserve by cytotoxic treatments such as chemotherapy. AMH is also now used to predict proximity to menopause and potentially provides a sensitive and specific test for polycystic ovarian syndrome. Twenty one different AMH immunoassay platforms/methods are now commercially available. Of those compared, the random-access platforms are the most reliable. However, to date there has not been an agreed common international AMH reference preparation to standardize calibration between the various immunoassays. Recently, a purified human AMH preparation (code 16/190) has been investigated by the World Health Organization as a potential international reference preparation. However, this was only partially successful as commutability between it and serum samples was observed only in some but not all immunoassay methods. Development of a second generation reference preparation with wider commutability is proposed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fendo.2021.691432DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8183164PMC
May 2021

SARS-CoV-2 variants, spike mutations and immune escape.

Nat Rev Microbiol 2021 07 1;19(7):409-424. Epub 2021 Jun 1.

MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, Glasgow, UK.

Although most mutations in the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) genome are expected to be either deleterious and swiftly purged or relatively neutral, a small proportion will affect functional properties and may alter infectivity, disease severity or interactions with host immunity. The emergence of SARS-CoV-2 in late 2019 was followed by a period of relative evolutionary stasis lasting about 11 months. Since late 2020, however, SARS-CoV-2 evolution has been characterized by the emergence of sets of mutations, in the context of 'variants of concern', that impact virus characteristics, including transmissibility and antigenicity, probably in response to the changing immune profile of the human population. There is emerging evidence of reduced neutralization of some SARS-CoV-2 variants by postvaccination serum; however, a greater understanding of correlates of protection is required to evaluate how this may impact vaccine effectiveness. Nonetheless, manufacturers are preparing platforms for a possible update of vaccine sequences, and it is crucial that surveillance of genetic and antigenic changes in the global virus population is done alongside experiments to elucidate the phenotypic impacts of mutations. In this Review, we summarize the literature on mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, the primary antigen, focusing on their impacts on antigenicity and contextualizing them in the protein structure, and discuss them in the context of observed mutation frequencies in global sequence datasets.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41579-021-00573-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8167834PMC
July 2021

Corrigenda: A new species of damselfish from the tropical western Atlantic (Teleostei, Pomacentridae). ZooKeys 1008: 107-138. https://zookeys.pensoft.net/article/58805/.

Zookeys 2021 10;1036:171-172. Epub 2021 May 10.

School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-5020, USA University of Washington Seattle United States of America.

[This corrects the article DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.1008.58805.].
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.1036.65739DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8128842PMC
May 2021

Effect of High Dietary Sodium Intake in Patients With Postural Tachycardia Syndrome.

J Am Coll Cardiol 2021 May;77(17):2174-2184

Vanderbilt Autonomic Dysfunction Center, Division of Clinical Pharmacology, Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Department of Cardiac Sciences, Libin Cardiovascular Institute, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Electronic address:

Background: High sodium intake is recommended for the treatment of postural tachycardia syndrome (POTS) to counteract the hypovolemia and elevated plasma norepinephrine that contribute to excessive orthostatic tachycardia, but evidence of its efficacy is not available.

Objectives: This study tested whether a high sodium (HS) diet reduces orthostatic tachycardia (Δ heart rate) and upright heart rate compared with a low sodium (LS) diet in POTS patients, and secondarily its effect on plasma volume (PV) and plasma norepinephrine.

Methods: A total of 14 POTS patients and 13 healthy control subjects (HC), age 23 to 49 years, were enrolled in a crossover study with 6 days of LS (10 mEq sodium/day) or HS (300 mEq sodium/day) diet. Supine and standing heart rate, blood pressure, serum aldosterone, plasma renin activity, blood volume, and plasma norepinephrine and epinephrine were measured.

Results: In POTS, the HS diet reduced upright heart rate and Δ heart rate compared with the LS diet. Total blood volume and PV increased, and standing norepinephrine decreased with the HS compared with the LS diet. However, upright heart rate, Δ heart rate, and upright norepinephrine remained higher in POTS than in HC on the HS diet (median 117 beats/min [interquartile range: 98 to 121 beats/min], 46 beats/min [interquartile range: 32 to 55 beats/min], and 753 pg/ml [interquartile range: 498 to 919 pg/ml] in POTS vs. 85 beats/min [interquartile range: 77 to 95 beats/min], 19 beats/min [interquartile range: 11 to 32 beats/min], and 387 pg/ml [interquartile range: 312 to 433 pg/ml] in HC, respectively), despite no difference in the measured PV.

Conclusions: In POTS patients, high dietary sodium intake compared with low dietary sodium intake increases plasma volume, lowers standing plasma norepinephrine, and decreases Δ heart rate. (Dietary Salt in Postural Tachycardia Syndrome; NCT01547117).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2021.03.005DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8103825PMC
May 2021

ITN-VIROINF: Understanding (Harmful) Virus-Host Interactions by Linking Virology and Bioinformatics.

Viruses 2021 04 27;13(5). Epub 2021 Apr 27.

RNA Bioinformatics and High-Throughput Analysis, Friedrich Schiller University, 07743 Jena, Germany.

Many recent studies highlight the fundamental importance of viruses. Besides their important role as human and animal pathogens, their beneficial, commensal or harmful functions are poorly understood. By developing and applying tailored bioinformatical tools in important virological models, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Initiative International Training Network VIROINF will provide a better understanding of viruses and the interaction with their hosts. This will open the door to validate methods of improving viral growth, morphogenesis and development, as well as to control strategies against unwanted microorganisms. The key feature of VIROINF is its interdisciplinary nature, which brings together virologists and bioinformaticians to achieve common goals.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/v13050766DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8145447PMC
April 2021

Genetic epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in renal dialysis units - A high risk community-hospital interface.

J Infect 2021 07 22;83(1):96-103. Epub 2021 Apr 22.

Renal Unit, University Hospital Monklands, Monkscourt Ave, Airdrie ML6 0JS, Canada; Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, University of Glasgow, 126 University Place, Glasgow G12 8TA, UK.

Objectives: Patients requiring haemodialysis are at increased risk of serious illness with SARS-CoV-2 infection. To improve the understanding of transmission risks in six Scottish renal dialysis units, we utilised the rapid whole-genome sequencing data generated by the COG-UK consortium.

Methods: We combined geographical, temporal and genomic sequence data from the community and hospital to estimate the probability of infection originating from within the dialysis unit, the hospital or the community using Bayesian statistical modelling and compared these results to the details of epidemiological investigations.

Results: Of 671 patients, 60 (8.9%) became infected with SARS-CoV-2, of whom 16 (27%) died. Within-unit and community transmission were both evident and an instance of transmission from the wider hospital setting was also demonstrated.

Conclusions: Near-real-time SARS-CoV-2 sequencing data can facilitate tailored infection prevention and control measures, which can be targeted at reducing risk in these settings.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jinf.2021.04.020DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8061788PMC
July 2021

Detection of SARS-CoV-2 in respiratory samples from cats in the UK associated with human-to-cat transmission.

Vet Rec 2021 04 22;188(8):e247. Epub 2021 Apr 22.

Veterinary Diagnostics Service, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK.

Objectives: The aim of the study was to find evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in UK cats.

Design: Tissue samples were tested for SARS-CoV-2 antigen using immunofluorescence and for viral RNA by in situ hybridisation. A set of 387 oropharyngeal swabs that had been submitted for routine respiratory pathogen testing was tested for SARS-CoV-2 RNA using reverse transcriptase quantitative PCR.

Results: Lung tissue collected post-mortem from cat 1 tested positive for both SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid antigen and RNA. SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected in an oropharyngeal swab collected from cat 2 that presented with rhinitis and conjunctivitis. High throughput sequencing of the viral genome revealed five single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) compared to the nearest UK human SARS-CoV-2 sequence, and this human virus contained eight SNPs compared to the original Wuhan-Hu-1 reference sequence. An analysis of the viral genome of cat 2 together with nine other feline-derived SARS-CoV-2 sequences from around the world revealed no shared cat-specific mutations.

Conclusions: These findings indicate that human-to-cat transmission of SARS-CoV-2 occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK, with the infected cats developing mild or severe respiratory disease. Given the ability of the new coronavirus to infect different species, it will be important to monitor for human-to-cat, cat-to-cat and cat-to-human transmission.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/vetr.247DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8251078PMC
April 2021

Interactions between serum FSH, inhibin B and antral follicle count in the decline of serum AMH during the menstrual cycle in late reproductive age.

Endocrinol Diabetes Metab 2021 04 8;4(2):e00172. Epub 2020 Aug 8.

Department of Academic Family Medicine College of Medicine University of Saskatchewan Saskatchewan Canada.

Objective: To investigate the hormonal interrelationships during the menstrual cycle in women of late reproductive age with suppressed serum AMH and antral follicle count (AFC).

Methods: Serum hormones (AMH, FSH, LH, estradiol, progesterone, inhibin A, inhibin B), AFC (2-10 mm) and AMH/AFC ratio (an estimate of AMH/follicle) were assessed every 2-3 days across the menstrual cycle in 26 healthy ovulatory women aged 18-50 years.

Results: An 11-fold fall in AMH/AFC was observed in women aged ≥45 years compared to those 18-45 years ( < .001). Although women ≥45 years exhibited normal menstrual cycle patterns of serum estradiol, progesterone, LH and inhibin A, FSH was elevated ( < .001) and inhibin B suppressed ( < .001) compared to the younger group. Overall FSH was inversely correlated ( = .55,  < .05) and AMH directly correlated ( = .88,  < .01) with AFC; however, these relationships were curvilinear and more pronounced when AFC was low. Inhibin B was directly linearly correlated ( = .70,  < .01) with AFC across both high and low AMH/follicle groups.

Conclusions: It is hypothesized that the marked fall in AMH/follicle in late reproductive age is attributed to the change in the hormonal interplay between the pituitary and ovary. The fall in AFC leads to a decrease in inhibin B and a concomitant increase in FSH by a recognized feedback mechanism. It is postulated the elevated FSH suppresses AMH either directly or indirectly through oocyte-specific growth factors leading to a marked fall in AMH/follicle. We propose that pituitary-ovarian and intra-ovarian regulatory systems underpin the accelerated fall in AMH/follicle during the transition to menopause.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/edm2.172DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8029535PMC
April 2021

Exploratory analysis of serum concentrations of oocyte biomarkers growth differentiation factor 9 and bone morphogenetic protein 15 in ovulatory women across the menstrual cycle.

Fertil Steril 2021 Mar 25. Epub 2021 Mar 25.

Fertility and Research Centre, School of Women's and Children's Health, University of New South Wales Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

Objective: To characterize and evaluate the variation in serum concentrations of oocyte-secreted growth differentiation factor 9 (GDF9) and bone morphogenetic protein 15 (BMP15) throughout the menstrual cycle in women from young to advanced reproductive ages.

Design: Cross-sectional, observational, and exploratory study.

Setting: Multicenter university-based clinical practices and laboratories.

Patient(s): Serum was collected every 1-3 days throughout the menstrual cycle from 3 cohorts of healthy, ovulatory women: menses to late luteal phase (21-29 years of age; n = 16; University of Otago) and across one interovulatory interval (18-35 years of age; n = 10; and 45-50 years of age; n = 15; University of Saskatchewan).

Intervention(s): None.

Main Outcome Measure(s): To detect the changes in serum GDF9 and BMP15 across the cycle, mean concentration and variance were statistically modeled using a generalized additive model of location, shape and scale (GAMLSS). Follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, estradiol, progesterone, and anti-Müllerian hormone were also assessed.

Result(s): GDF9 and BMP15 were detectable in 54% and 73% of women and varied 236-fold and 52-fold between women, respectively. Across the menstrual cycle, there were minimal changes in GDF9 or BMP15 within a woman for all cohorts, with no significant differences detected in the modeled mean concentrations. However, modeled variances were highest in the luteal phases of all women for BMP15 immediately after ovulation, regardless of age.

Conclusion(s): Serial changes in GDF9 or BMP15 concentrations across the cycle were not statistically detected and are likewise similar across the reproductive lifespan. Further research is required to fully elucidate the utility of these oocyte biomarkers at diagnosing fertility potential and/or disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2021.02.001DOI Listing
March 2021

Natural selection in the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in bats created a generalist virus and highly capable human pathogen.

PLoS Biol 2021 03 12;19(3):e3001115. Epub 2021 Mar 12.

MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, Glasgow, United Kingdom.

Virus host shifts are generally associated with novel adaptations to exploit the cells of the new host species optimally. Surprisingly, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has apparently required little to no significant adaptation to humans since the start of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and to October 2020. Here we assess the types of natural selection taking place in Sarbecoviruses in horseshoe bats versus the early SARS-CoV-2 evolution in humans. While there is moderate evidence of diversifying positive selection in SARS-CoV-2 in humans, it is limited to the early phase of the pandemic, and purifying selection is much weaker in SARS-CoV-2 than in related bat Sarbecoviruses. In contrast, our analysis detects evidence for significant positive episodic diversifying selection acting at the base of the bat virus lineage SARS-CoV-2 emerged from, accompanied by an adaptive depletion in CpG composition presumed to be linked to the action of antiviral mechanisms in these ancestral bat hosts. The closest bat virus to SARS-CoV-2, RmYN02 (sharing an ancestor about 1976), is a recombinant with a structure that includes differential CpG content in Spike; clear evidence of coinfection and evolution in bats without involvement of other species. While an undiscovered "facilitating" intermediate species cannot be discounted, collectively, our results support the progenitor of SARS-CoV-2 being capable of efficient human-human transmission as a consequence of its adaptive evolutionary history in bats, not humans, which created a relatively generalist virus.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3001115DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7990310PMC
March 2021

Detecting fake news on Facebook: The role of emotional intelligence.

PLoS One 2021 11;16(3):e0246757. Epub 2021 Mar 11.

School of Government and Public Policy, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom.

The proliferation of fake news on social media is now a matter of considerable public and governmental concern. In 2016, the UK EU referendum and the US Presidential election were both marked by social media misinformation campaigns, which have subsequently reduced trust in democratic processes. More recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the acceptance of fake news has been shown to pose a threat to public health. Research on how to combat the false acceptance of fake news is still in its infancy. However, recent studies have started to focus on the psychological factors which might make some individuals less likely to fall for fake news. Here, we adopt that approach to assess whether individuals who show high levels of 'emotional intelligence' (EQ) are less likely to fall for fake news items. That is, are individuals who are better able to disregard the emotionally charged content of such items, better equipped to assess the veracity of the information. Using a sample of UK participants, an established measure of EQ and a novel fake news detection task, we report a significant positive relationship between individual differences in emotional intelligence and fake news detection ability. We also report a similar effect for higher levels of educational attainment, and we report some exploratory qualitative fake news judgement data. Our findings are discussed in terms of their applicability to practical short term (i.e. current Facebook user data) and medium term (i.e. emotional intelligence training) interventions which could enhance fake news detection.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0246757PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7951906PMC
March 2021

The emergence and ongoing convergent evolution of the N501Y lineages coincides with a major global shift in the SARS-CoV-2 selective landscape.

medRxiv 2021 Mar 5. Epub 2021 Mar 5.

The emergence and rapid rise in prevalence of three independent SARS-CoV-2 "501Y lineages'', B.1.1.7, B.1.351 and P.1, in the last three months of 2020 has prompted renewed concerns about the evolutionarily capacity of SARS-CoV-2 to adapt to both rising population immunity, and public health interventions such as vaccines and social distancing. Viruses giving rise to the different 501Y lineages have, presumably under intense natural selection following a shift in host environment, independently acquired multiple unique and convergent mutations. As a consequence all have gained epidemiological and immunological properties that will likely complicate the control of COVID-19. Here, by examining patterns of mutations that arose in SARS-CoV-2 genomes during the pandemic we find evidence of a major change in the selective forces acting on immunologically important SARS-CoV-2 genes (such as N and S) that likely coincided with the emergence of the 501Y lineages. In addition to involving continuing sequence diversification, we find evidence that a significant portion of the ongoing adaptive evolution of the 501Y lineages also involves further convergence between the lineages. Our findings highlight the importance of monitoring how members of these known 501Y lineages, and others still undiscovered, are convergently evolving similar strategies to ensure their persistence in the face of mounting infection and vaccine induced host immune recognition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2021.02.23.21252268DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7941658PMC
March 2021

A plasmid DNA-launched SARS-CoV-2 reverse genetics system and coronavirus toolkit for COVID-19 research.

PLoS Biol 2021 02 25;19(2):e3001091. Epub 2021 Feb 25.

MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR), Glasgow, United Kingdom.

The recent emergence of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the underlying cause of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), has led to a worldwide pandemic causing substantial morbidity, mortality, and economic devastation. In response, many laboratories have redirected attention to SARS-CoV-2, meaning there is an urgent need for tools that can be used in laboratories unaccustomed to working with coronaviruses. Here we report a range of tools for SARS-CoV-2 research. First, we describe a facile single plasmid SARS-CoV-2 reverse genetics system that is simple to genetically manipulate and can be used to rescue infectious virus through transient transfection (without in vitro transcription or additional expression plasmids). The rescue system is accompanied by our panel of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies (against nearly every viral protein), SARS-CoV-2 clinical isolates, and SARS-CoV-2 permissive cell lines, which are all openly available to the scientific community. Using these tools, we demonstrate here that the controversial ORF10 protein is expressed in infected cells. Furthermore, we show that the promising repurposed antiviral activity of apilimod is dependent on TMPRSS2 expression. Altogether, our SARS-CoV-2 toolkit, which can be directly accessed via our website at https://mrcppu-covid.bio/, constitutes a resource with considerable potential to advance COVID-19 vaccine design, drug testing, and discovery science.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3001091DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7906417PMC
February 2021

Circulating SARS-CoV-2 spike N439K variants maintain fitness while evading antibody-mediated immunity.

Cell 2021 03 28;184(5):1171-1187.e20. Epub 2021 Jan 28.

MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G61 1QH, UK.

SARS-CoV-2 can mutate and evade immunity, with consequences for efficacy of emerging vaccines and antibody therapeutics. Here, we demonstrate that the immunodominant SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) receptor binding motif (RBM) is a highly variable region of S and provide epidemiological, clinical, and molecular characterization of a prevalent, sentinel RBM mutation, N439K. We demonstrate N439K S protein has enhanced binding affinity to the hACE2 receptor, and N439K viruses have similar in vitro replication fitness and cause infections with similar clinical outcomes as compared to wild type. We show the N439K mutation confers resistance against several neutralizing monoclonal antibodies, including one authorized for emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and reduces the activity of some polyclonal sera from persons recovered from infection. Immune evasion mutations that maintain virulence and fitness such as N439K can emerge within SARS-CoV-2 S, highlighting the need for ongoing molecular surveillance to guide development and usage of vaccines and therapeutics.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2021.01.037DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7843029PMC
March 2021

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome is associated with significant employment and economic loss.

J Intern Med 2021 Jul 15;290(1):203-212. Epub 2021 Feb 15.

Department of Cardiac Sciences, Cumming School of Medicine, Libin Cardiovascular Institute, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada.

Background: Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is a debilitating form of chronic orthostatic intolerance that primarily affects women and causes substantial impairment in quality of life and function. Yet, there is minimal literature describing the employment and economic consequences of POTS. We explored these aspects of the POTS patient experience through a self-reported study designed using community-based participatory research principles.

Methods And Results: A comprehensive questionnaire, including employment and economic consequences, was developed in partnership with Dysautonomia International, a patient advocacy organization. The POTS community engaged in all stages of the research design and analysis. Participants were recruited through Dysautonomia International's website and social media channels. The analysis included 5,556 adult (age ≥18 years) participants with a physician-confirmed diagnosis of POTS. The majority of participants were female (95%). Forty-eight per cent of participants reported employment during the three months prior to the survey, and of these participants, 66.8% would work greater hours if not for illness limitations. Over two-thirds (70.5%) of participants have lost income due to POTS symptoms, with 36.0% of the total cohort losing more than $10,000 USD in the 12 months prior to the survey. Almost all (95%) participants reported POTS-related out-of-pocket medical expenses since diagnosis, with 51.1% of participants spending $10,000 USD or more.

Conclusions: This is the largest study reporting the employment and economic challenges experienced by individuals with POTS. Exposure of these challenges emphasizes the need for earlier diagnosis and improved therapeutic strategies to reduce the negative individual and societal consequences of this disorder.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/joim.13245DOI Listing
July 2021

Experiments with a prototype titanium hot cavity surface ionization source intended for electromagnetic separation of radioactive samarium and other lanthanide elements.

Appl Radiat Isot 2021 Apr 1;170:109621. Epub 2021 Feb 1.

University of Missouri - College of Engineering, 207 Naka Hall, Columbia, MO, 65211, USA; University of Missouri Research Reactor Center (MURR), 1513 Research Park Drive, Columbia, MO, 65211, USA.

This paper reports experimental results of a prototype titanium surface ionization source. For the first time, a lanthanide ion beam has been produced with a surface ionizer composed completely of titanium metal. Titanium does not readily activate with neutron irradiation. This offers the potential for inserting an ion source made of titanium directly into a reactor with a pre-loaded non-radioactive lanthanide target. This seamlessly integrates target irradiation with isotope separation, eliminating post irradiation sample manipulation. Samarium ion beam currents up to 960 nA have been produced in an off-line test bench equipped with rudimentary beam optics. This is a crucial step toward the development of an ionization source adopted for the electromagnetic isotope separator (EMIS) facility, which has been designed for high throughput separations of radioactive Sm and other lanthanides of interest in the field of nuclear medicine. The ion current and important factors affecting the performance of the ion source, such as the ionizer temperature and thermal gradient, are discussed. The experimental results are presented together with a discussion of future modifications to optimize the overall surface ionization source performance.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apradiso.2021.109621DOI Listing
April 2021

A new species of damselfish from the tropical western Atlantic (Teleostei, Pomacentridae).

Zookeys 2020 31;1008:107-138. Epub 2020 Dec 31.

School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-5020, USA University of Washington Seattle United States of America.

Initially described in 1882, , the Yellowtail Reeffish, was redescribed in 1982 to account for an observed color morph that possesses a white tail instead of a yellow one, but morphological and geographic boundaries between the two color morphs were not well understood. Taking advantage of newly collected material from submersible studies of deep reefs and photographs from rebreather dives, this study sought to determine whether the white-tailed is actually a color morph of or a distinct species. Phylogenetic analyses of mitochondrial genes cytochrome b and cytochrome c oxidase subunit I separated and the white-tailed into two reciprocally monophyletic clades. A principal component analysis based on 27 morphological characters separated the two groups into clusters that correspond with caudal-fin coloration, which was either known or presumed based on the specimen's collection site according to biogeographic data on species boundaries in the Greater Caribbean. Genetic, morphological, and biogeographic data all indicate that the white-tailed is a distinct species, herein described as The discovery of a new species within a conspicuous group such as damselfishes in a well-studied region of the world highlights the importance of deep-reef exploration in documenting undiscovered biodiversity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.1008.58805DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7790814PMC
December 2020

The marine fishes of St Eustatius Island, northeastern Caribbean: an annotated, photographic catalog.

Zookeys 2020 30;1007:145-180. Epub 2020 Dec 30.

Department of Vertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20560, USA National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution Washington United States of America.

Sint Eustatius (Statia) is a 21 km island situated in the northeastern Caribbean Sea. The most recent published sources of information on that island's marine fish fauna is in two non-governmental organization reports from 2015-17 related to the formation of a marine reserve. The species-list in the 2017 report was based on field research in 2013-15 using SCUBA diving surveys, shallow "baited underwater video surveys" (BRUVs), and data from fishery surveys and scientific collections over the preceding century. That checklist comprised 304 species of shallow (mostly) and deep-water fishes. In 2017 the Smithsonian Deep Reef Observation Project surveyed deep-reef fishes at Statia using the crewed submersible Curasub. That effort recorded 120 species, including 59 new occurrences records. In March-May 2020, two experienced citizen scientists completed 62 SCUBA dives there and recorded 244 shallow species, 40 of them new records for Statia. The 2017-2020 research effort increased the number of species known from the island by 33.6% to 406. Here we present an updated catalog of that marine fish fauna, including voucher photographs of 280 species recorded there in 2017 and 2020. The Statia reef-fish fauna likely is incompletely documented as it has few small, shallow, cryptobenthic species, which are a major component of the regional fauna. A lack of targeted sampling is probably the major factor explaining that deficit, although a limited range of benthic marine habitats may also be contributing.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.1007.58515DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7788074PMC
December 2020

Digital approach to informed consent in bariatric surgery: a randomized controlled trial.

Surg Endosc 2021 Jan 27. Epub 2021 Jan 27.

Department of Surgery, Queen's University, Kingston, Canada.

Background: Informed consent is of paramount importance in surgery. Digital media can be used to enhance patient's comprehension of the proposed operation. The objective of this study was to examine the effects of adding a digital educational platform (DEP) to a standard verbal consent (SVC) for a laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (LRYGB) on patient's knowledge of the procedure, satisfaction with the clinical encounter and duration of the consent appointment.

Methods: This prospective non-blinded randomized controlled trial allocated 51 patients, who were candidates for a LRYGB, into DEP+SVC (intervention, n = 26) or SVC (control, n = 25) groups. Data were collected at one Bariatric Centre of Excellence (Ontario, Canada) between December 2018 and December 2019. DEP consisted of a 29-slide video-supplemented module detailing the risks, benefits, expectations and outcomes for the LRYGB. Primary outcome was knowledge about the LRYGB operation following the consent discussion. Secondary outcomes were knowledge retention, patient satisfaction, and duration of time required to obtain an informed consent.

Results: Baseline demographic data were equivalent between groups except for a greater proportion of male patients in the DEP+SVC group (7/19 vs 0/25; p < 0.01). Baseline procedure-specific knowledge was equivalent between the groups (72.3 ± 11.3% vs 74.7 ± 9.6%; p = 0.41). Post-consent knowledge was significantly higher in the DEP + SVC vs SVC group (85.0 ± 8.8% vs 78.7 ± 8.7%; p = 0.01; ES = 0.72). The duration of time to obtain informed consent was significantly shorter for the DEP + SVC vs SVC group (358 ± 198 sec vs 751 ± 212 sec; p < 0.01; ES = 1.92). There was no difference in knowledge retention at 4-6 weeks (84.4 ± 10.2% vs 82.9 ± 6.8%; p = 0.55) and in patient satisfaction (31.5 ± 1.1 vs 31 ± 2.7; p = 0.10).

Conclusion: The addition of a DEP online module to a standard verbal consent for LRYGB resulted in improved patient's understanding of the procedure-specific risks and benefits, high patient satisfaction, and over 50% time savings for the bariatric surgeon conducting the consent discussion.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00464-020-08277-xDOI Listing
January 2021

Genomic epidemiology reveals multiple introductions of SARS-CoV-2 from mainland Europe into Scotland.

Nat Microbiol 2021 01 21;6(1):112-122. Epub 2020 Dec 21.

Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy, UK.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was first diagnosed in Scotland on 1 March 2020. During the first month of the outbreak, 2,641 cases of COVID-19 led to 1,832 hospital admissions, 207 intensive care admissions and 126 deaths. We aimed to identify the source and number of introductions of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) into Scotland using a combined phylogenetic and epidemiological approach. Sequencing of 1,314 SARS-CoV-2 viral genomes from available patient samples enabled us to estimate that SARS-CoV-2 was introduced to Scotland on at least 283 occasions during February and March 2020. Epidemiological analysis confirmed that early introductions of SARS-CoV-2 originated from mainland Europe (the majority from Italy and Spain). We identified subsequent early outbreaks in the community, within healthcare facilities and at an international conference. Community transmission occurred after 2 March, 3 weeks before control measures were introduced. Earlier travel restrictions or quarantine measures, both locally and internationally, would have reduced the number of COVID-19 cases in Scotland. The risk of multiple reintroduction events in future waves of infection remains high in the absence of population immunity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41564-020-00838-zDOI Listing
January 2021

Ancestry of the AUTS2 family-A novel group of polycomb-complex proteins involved in human neurological disease.

PLoS One 2020 11;15(12):e0232101. Epub 2020 Dec 11.

Evolution & Genomic Sciences, School of Biological Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom.

Autism susceptibility candidate 2 (AUTS2) is a neurodevelopmental regulator associated with an autosomal dominant intellectual disability syndrome, AUTS2 syndrome, and is implicated as an important gene in human-specific evolution. AUTS2 exists as part of a tripartite gene family, the AUTS2 family, which includes two relatively undefined proteins, Fibrosin (FBRS) and Fibrosin-like protein 1 (FBRSL1). Evolutionary ancestors of AUTS2 have not been formally identified outside of the Animalia clade. A Drosophila melanogaster protein, Tay bridge, with a role in neurodevelopment, has been shown to display limited similarity to the C-terminal of AUTS2, suggesting that evolutionary ancestors of the AUTS2 family may exist within other Protostome lineages. Here we present an evolutionary analysis of the AUTS2 family, which highlights ancestral homologs of AUTS2 in multiple Protostome species, implicates AUTS2 as the closest human relative to the progenitor of the AUTS2 family, and demonstrates that Tay bridge is a divergent ortholog of the ancestral AUTS2 progenitor gene. We also define regions of high relative sequence identity, with potential functional significance, shared by the extended AUTS2 protein family. Using structural predictions coupled with sequence conservation and human variant data from 15,708 individuals, a putative domain structure for AUTS2 was produced that can be used to aid interpretation of the consequences of nucleotide variation on protein structure and function in human disease. To assess the role of AUTS2 in human-specific evolution, we recalculated allele frequencies at previously identified human derived sites using large population genome data, and show a high prevalence of ancestral alleles, suggesting that AUTS2 may not be a rapidly evolving gene, as previously thought.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0232101PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7732068PMC
January 2021

Evaluating the Effects of SARS-CoV-2 Spike Mutation D614G on Transmissibility and Pathogenicity.

Cell 2021 01 19;184(1):64-75.e11. Epub 2020 Nov 19.

MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, Glasgow, UK.

Global dispersal and increasing frequency of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein variant D614G are suggestive of a selective advantage but may also be due to a random founder effect. We investigate the hypothesis for positive selection of spike D614G in the United Kingdom using more than 25,000 whole genome SARS-CoV-2 sequences. Despite the availability of a large dataset, well represented by both spike 614 variants, not all approaches showed a conclusive signal of positive selection. Population genetic analysis indicates that 614G increases in frequency relative to 614D in a manner consistent with a selective advantage. We do not find any indication that patients infected with the spike 614G variant have higher COVID-19 mortality or clinical severity, but 614G is associated with higher viral load and younger age of patients. Significant differences in growth and size of 614G phylogenetic clusters indicate a need for continued study of this variant.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2020.11.020DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7674007PMC
January 2021

Computational strategies to combat COVID-19: useful tools to accelerate SARS-CoV-2 and coronavirus research.

Brief Bioinform 2021 03;22(2):642-663

Philipps-University Marburg, Germany.

SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) is a novel virus of the family Coronaviridae. The virus causes the infectious disease COVID-19. The biology of coronaviruses has been studied for many years. However, bioinformatics tools designed explicitly for SARS-CoV-2 have only recently been developed as a rapid reaction to the need for fast detection, understanding and treatment of COVID-19. To control the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is of utmost importance to get insight into the evolution and pathogenesis of the virus. In this review, we cover bioinformatics workflows and tools for the routine detection of SARS-CoV-2 infection, the reliable analysis of sequencing data, the tracking of the COVID-19 pandemic and evaluation of containment measures, the study of coronavirus evolution, the discovery of potential drug targets and development of therapeutic strategies. For each tool, we briefly describe its use case and how it advances research specifically for SARS-CoV-2. All tools are free to use and available online, either through web applications or public code repositories. Contact:[email protected]
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bib/bbaa232DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7665365PMC
March 2021
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