August 2015: Highlights of the BMC series

Sexually transmitted infection treatment challenges • Evolution of 'glow-in-the-dark' shark • Pathways to psychosis • Genetic traits of adaptable rice • Gut microbiota and obesity • Effective tobacco control policies • Comorbidty in adults with intellectual disabilities

Infectious Diseases:  Sexually transmitted infection treatment challenges

Syphilis Bacteria
Syphilis Bacteria
Flickr by NIAID

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 499 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) occur every year. Management and treatment of STIs is therefore one of the most prominent global medical challenges we are currently facing. This thematic series highlights current challenges to the treatment and management of common STIs. We have assembled a collection of state-of-the-art reviews that capture the latest evidence and opinions on where future treatment efforts should be placed.

 

Evolutionary Biology: evolution of ‘glow-in-the-dark’ shark

Shark
Shark
Flickr by Jeremy Merritt

Over ten per cent of the known shark species exhibit bioluminescence: they glow in the dark. While scientists have been uncovering the functional significance of bioluminescence for these animals, how they evolve to “glow” is still not known. In this study, the authors estimated the phylogenetic interrelationships of a generic level sampling of “squaloid” sharks and closely related taxa using aligned sequences derived from a targeted gene capture approach. Their results suggest that luminous organs arose during the rapid diversification event that gave rise to the deep-sea dwelling Squaliform shark families. This supports the theory that the emergence of deep-sea sharks may have been facilitated by the evolution of bioluminescence. 

 

Psychiatry: Pathways to psychosis

Psychosis
Psychosis
Flickr by Morgaine

Accumulating evidence has identified childhood and adolescent developmental risk factors and antecedents for schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD) and affective psychoses (AP), but the extent to which these factors may be common or unique to each disorder remains unclear. This systematic review identifies common developmental risk factors for SSD and AP, and highlights the need for investigation of the risk factors associated with AP.

 

Image of the month

Overall Winner of BMC Ecology Image Competition
Overall winner of the 3rd BMC Ecology Image Competition: “Palestinian sunbird female forages on Echinops sp.” Attribution: Mohamed Shebl.

For the third time, BMC Ecology is delighted to announce the winners of our annual Image Competition. This year featured entries from all over the world and showcased not only the creativity and talent of the participants, but also the exquisite beauty and diversity of our planet. We are pleased to present the winning selections of the editorial board of the journal and guest judge Dr. Ana Luz Porzecanski, as well as some highly commended images that are sure to impress.

More coverage of the competition can be found here.

 

Genetics: Genetic traits of adaptable rice

rice stalks
rice stalks
Flickr by CIAT

Rice requires great adaptability to grow in environments which are highly diverse and affected by fluctuations in environmental conditions during crop growth. Understanding the genetic underpinning of this high adaptability is essential for producing new strains that would adapt to the more varying environments in the future due to global climate change. In this study, the authors investigated the interactions and genetic control of drought- and yield-related traits under different environments and ecosystems, and have successfully identified traits and quantitative trait loci’s that provide increased adaptability of rice to variable cultivation environments.

 

Gastroenterology: Gut microbiota and obesity

uBiome
uBiome
Flickr by Tony Webster

Obesity has become one of the most serious social problems in developed countries. Recent studies have revealed that the human gut microbiota is strongly associated with host energy regulation and homeostasis, thereby affecting the clinical conditions of diabetic and/or obese patients. Although the gut microbiota was long thought to contribute to obesity, the exact association remains largely elusive. Using next generation sequencing techniques in addition to terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis, the authors of this study demonstrated significant differences in gut microbiota composition between obese versus non-obese individuals.

 

Public Health: Effective tobacco control policies

Smoking
Smoking
Flickr by Julie

The global tobacco epidemic is a major public health problem that continues to deepen, with nearly 1 billion smokers worldwide in 2012. Government interventions are critical to addressing this epidemic. The authors of this study systematically synthesized research evidence on the effectiveness of government tobacco control policies promoted by the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Evidence from the literature indicates that raising taxes on tobacco products, product packaging interventions and anti-tobacco mass media campaigns may decrease smoking behaviour, suggesting governments should focus their efforts on enacting smoke-free legislation and taxing tobacco products.

 

Family Practice: Comorbidty in adults with intellectual disabilities

depression
depression
Flickr by Kiran Foster

Adults with intellectual disabilities have increased early mortality compared with the general population. However, their extent of multimorbidity (two or more additional conditions) compared with the general population is unknown, particularly with regards to physical ill-health, as are associations between comorbidities, neighbourhood deprivation, and age. In this large cohort study, the authors demonstrated adults with intellectual disabilities experience increased burden of multi-morbidity and with much earlier age of onset, compared with the general population. Additionally, their profile of health conditions differs from the general population and does not have the same associations with neighbourhood deprivation.

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