The Department of Genomics and Computational Biology (GCB) at UMass Chan Medical School was originally established as the Program in Bioinformatics and Integrative Biology in 2008. The group evolved into a full-fledged department in 2023, reflecting their growth and the expanding scope of their research. The department embodies the convergence of Computational Biology, Evolutionary Biology, and Genomics and is committed to advancing understanding of biological complexity through cutting-edge computational methods, evolutionary theory, and genomic technologies.

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  • Pairtools: From sequencing data to chromosome contacts

    Abdennur, Nezar; Fudenberg, Geoffrey; Flyamer, Ilya M; Galitsyna, Aleksandra A; Goloborodko, Anton; Imakaev, Maxim; Venev, Sergey V (2024-05-29)
    The field of 3D genome organization produces large amounts of sequencing data from Hi-C and a rapidly-expanding set of other chromosome conformation protocols (3C+). Massive and heterogeneous 3C+ data require high-performance and flexible processing of sequenced reads into contact pairs. To meet these challenges, we present pairtools-a flexible suite of tools for contact extraction from sequencing data. Pairtools provides modular command-line interface (CLI) tools that can be flexibly chained into data processing pipelines. The core operations provided by pairtools are parsing of.sam alignments into Hi-C pairs, sorting and removal of PCR duplicates. In addition, pairtools provides auxiliary tools for building feature-rich 3C+ pipelines, including contact pair manipulation, filtration, and quality control. Benchmarking pairtools against popular 3C+ data pipelines shows advantages of pairtools for high-performance and flexible 3C+ analysis. Finally, pairtools provides protocol-specific tools for restriction-based protocols, haplotype-resolved contacts, and single-cell Hi-C. The combination of CLI tools and tight integration with Python data analysis libraries makes pairtools a versatile foundation for a broad range of 3C+ pipelines.
  • Single-cell genomics and regulatory networks for 388 human brains

    Emani, Prashant S; Liu, Jason J; Clarke, Declan; Jensen, Matthew; Warrell, Jonathan; Gupta, Chirag; Meng, Ran; Lee, Che Yu; Xu, Siwei; Dursun, Cagatay; et al. (2024-05-24)
    Single-cell genomics is a powerful tool for studying heterogeneous tissues such as the brain. Yet little is understood about how genetic variants influence cell-level gene expression. Addressing this, we uniformly processed single-nuclei, multiomics datasets into a resource comprising >2.8 million nuclei from the prefrontal cortex across 388 individuals. For 28 cell types, we assessed population-level variation in expression and chromatin across gene families and drug targets. We identified >550,000 cell type-specific regulatory elements and >1.4 million single-cell expression quantitative trait loci, which we used to build cell-type regulatory and cell-to-cell communication networks. These networks manifest cellular changes in aging and neuropsychiatric disorders. We further constructed an integrative model accurately imputing single-cell expression and simulating perturbations; the model prioritized ~250 disease-risk genes and drug targets with associated cell types.
  • Cross-ancestry atlas of gene, isoform, and splicing regulation in the developing human brain

    Wen, Cindy; Margolis, Michael; Dai, Rujia; Zhang, Pan; Przytycki, Pawel F; Vo, Daniel D; Bhattacharya, Arjun; Matoba, Nana; Tang, Miao; Jiao, Chuan; et al. (2024-05-24)
    Neuropsychiatric genome-wide association studies (GWASs), including those for autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia, show strong enrichment for regulatory elements in the developing brain. However, prioritizing risk genes and mechanisms is challenging without a unified regulatory atlas. Across 672 diverse developing human brains, we identified 15,752 genes harboring gene, isoform, and/or splicing quantitative trait loci, mapping 3739 to cellular contexts. Gene expression heritability drops during development, likely reflecting both increasing cellular heterogeneity and the intrinsic properties of neuronal maturation. Isoform-level regulation, particularly in the second trimester, mediated the largest proportion of GWAS heritability. Through colocalization, we prioritized mechanisms for about 60% of GWAS loci across five disorders, exceeding adult brain findings. Finally, we contextualized results within gene and isoform coexpression networks, revealing the comprehensive landscape of transcriptome regulation in development and disease.
  • Using a comprehensive atlas and predictive models to reveal the complexity and evolution of brain-active regulatory elements

    Pratt, Henry E; Andrews, Gregory; Shedd, Nicole; Phalke, Nishigandha; Li, Tongxin; Pampari, Anusri; Jensen, Matthew; Wen, Cindy; Gandal, Michael J; Geschwind, Daniel H; et al. (2024-05-23)
    Most genetic variants associated with psychiatric disorders are located in noncoding regions of the genome. To investigate their functional implications, we integrate epigenetic data from the PsychENCODE Consortium and other published sources to construct a comprehensive atlas of candidate brain cis-regulatory elements. Using deep learning, we model these elements' sequence syntax and predict how binding sites for lineage-specific transcription factors contribute to cell type-specific gene regulation in various types of glia and neurons. The elements' evolutionary history suggests that new regulatory information in the brain emerges primarily via smaller sequence mutations within conserved mammalian elements rather than entirely new human- or primate-specific sequences. However, primate-specific candidate elements, particularly those active during fetal brain development and in excitatory neurons and astrocytes, are implicated in the heritability of brain-related human traits. Additionally, we introduce PsychSCREEN, a web-based platform offering interactive visualization of PsychENCODE-generated genetic and epigenetic data from diverse brain cell types in individuals with psychiatric disorders and healthy controls.
  • Inferring causal cell types of human diseases and risk variants from candidate regulatory elements [preprint]

    Kim, Artem; Zhang, Zixuan; Legros, Come; Lu, Zeyun; de Smith, Adam; Moore, Jill E; Mancuso, Nicholas; Gazal, Steven (2024-05-18)
    The heritability of human diseases is extremely enriched in candidate regulatory elements (cRE) from disease-relevant cell types. Critical next steps are to infer which and how many cell types are truly causal for a disease (after accounting for co-regulation across cell types), and to understand how individual variants impact disease risk through single or multiple causal cell types. Here, we propose CT-FM and CT-FM-SNP, two methods that leverage cell-type-specific cREs to fine-map causal cell types for a trait and for its candidate causal variants, respectively. We applied CT-FM to 63 GWAS summary statistics (average N = 417K) using nearly one thousand cRE annotations, primarily coming from ENCODE4. CT-FM inferred 81 causal cell types with corresponding SNP-annotations explaining a high fraction of trait SNP-heritability (~2/3 of the SNP-heritability explained by existing cREs), identified 16 traits with multiple causal cell types, highlighted cell-disease relationships consistent with known biology, and uncovered previously unexplored cellular mechanisms in psychiatric and immune-related diseases. Finally, we applied CT-FM-SNP to 39 UK Biobank traits and predicted high confidence causal cell types for 2,798 candidate causal non-coding SNPs. Our results suggest that most SNPs impact a phenotype through a single cell type, and that pleiotropic SNPs target different cell types depending on the phenotype context. Altogether, CT-FM and CT-FM-SNP shed light on how genetic variants act collectively and individually at the cellular level to impact disease risk.
  • Cooltools: Enabling high-resolution Hi-C analysis in Python

    Abdennur, Nezar; Abraham, Sameer; Fudenberg, Geoffrey; Flyamer, Ilya M; Galitsyna, Aleksandra A; Goloborodko, Anton; Imakaev, Maxim; Akgol Oksuz, Betul; Venev, Sergey V; Xiao, Yao (2024-05-06)
    Chromosome conformation capture (3C) technologies reveal the incredible complexity of genome organization. Maps of increasing size, depth, and resolution are now used to probe genome architecture across cell states, types, and organisms. Larger datasets add challenges at each step of computational analysis, from storage and memory constraints to researchers' time; however, analysis tools that meet these increased resource demands have not kept pace. Furthermore, existing tools offer limited support for customizing analysis for specific use cases or new biology. Here we introduce cooltools (https://github.com/open2c/cooltools), a suite of computational tools that enables flexible, scalable, and reproducible analysis of high-resolution contact frequency data. Cooltools leverages the widely-adopted cooler format which handles storage and access for high-resolution datasets. Cooltools provides a paired command line interface (CLI) and Python application programming interface (API), which respectively facilitate workflows on high-performance computing clusters and in interactive analysis environments. In short, cooltools enables the effective use of the latest and largest genome folding datasets.
  • A single cell atlas of the mouse seminal vesicle [preprint]

    Sun, Fengyun; Desevin, Kathleen; Fu, Yu; Parameswaran, Shanmathi; Mayall, Jemma; Rinaldi, Vera; Krietenstein, Nils; Manukyan, Artur; Yin, Qiangzong; Galan, Carolina; et al. (2024-04-11)
    During mammalian reproduction, sperm are delivered to the female reproductive tract bathed in a complex medium known as seminal fluid, which plays key roles in signaling to the female reproductive tract and in nourishing sperm for their onwards journey. Along with minor contributions from the prostate and the epididymis, the majority of seminal fluid is produced by a somewhat understudied organ known as the seminal vesicle. Here, we report the first single-cell RNA-seq atlas of the mouse seminal vesicle, generated using tissues obtained from 23 mice of varying ages, exposed to a range of dietary challenges. We define the transcriptome of the secretory cells in this tissue, identifying a relatively homogeneous population of the epithelial cells which are responsible for producing the majority of seminal fluid. We also define the immune cell populations - including large populations of macrophages, dendritic cells, T cells, and NKT cells - which have the potential to play roles in producing various immune mediators present in seminal plasma. Together, our data provide a resource for understanding the composition of an understudied reproductive tissue with potential implications for paternal control of offspring development and metabolism.
  • Single-cell genomics and regulatory networks for 388 human brains [preprint]

    Emani, Prashant S; Liu, Jason J; Clarke, Declan; Jensen, Matthew; Warrell, Jonathan; Gupta, Chirag; Meng, Ran; Lee, Che Yu; Xu, Siwei; Dursun, Cagatay; et al. (2024-03-30)
    Single-cell genomics is a powerful tool for studying heterogeneous tissues such as the brain. Yet, little is understood about how genetic variants influence cell-level gene expression. Addressing this, we uniformly processed single-nuclei, multi-omics datasets into a resource comprising >2.8M nuclei from the prefrontal cortex across 388 individuals. For 28 cell types, we assessed population-level variation in expression and chromatin across gene families and drug targets. We identified >550K cell-type-specific regulatory elements and >1.4M single-cell expression-quantitative-trait loci, which we used to build cell-type regulatory and cell-to-cell communication networks. These networks manifest cellular changes in aging and neuropsychiatric disorders. We further constructed an integrative model accurately imputing single-cell expression and simulating perturbations; the model prioritized ~250 disease-risk genes and drug targets with associated cell types.
  • Vocal learning-associated convergent evolution in mammalian proteins and regulatory elements

    Wirthlin, Morgan E; Schmid, Tobias A; Elie, Julie E; Zhang, Xiaomeng; Kowalczyk, Amanda; Redlich, Ruby; Shvareva, Varvara A; Rakuljic, Ashley; Ji, Maria B; Bhat, Ninad S; et al. (2024-03-29)
    Vocal production learning ("vocal learning") is a convergently evolved trait in vertebrates. To identify brain genomic elements associated with mammalian vocal learning, we integrated genomic, anatomical, and neurophysiological data from the Egyptian fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus) with analyses of the genomes of 215 placental mammals. First, we identified a set of proteins evolving more slowly in vocal learners. Then, we discovered a vocal motor cortical region in the Egyptian fruit bat, an emergent vocal learner, and leveraged that knowledge to identify active cis-regulatory elements in the motor cortex of vocal learners. Machine learning methods applied to motor cortex open chromatin revealed 50 enhancers robustly associated with vocal learning whose activity tended to be lower in vocal learners. Our research implicates convergent losses of motor cortex regulatory elements in mammalian vocal learning evolution.
  • Expression of ALS-PFN1 impairs vesicular degradation in iPSC-derived microglia

    Funes, Salome; Jung, Jonathan; Gadd, Del Hayden; Mosqueda, Michelle; Zhong, Jianjun; Shankaracharya; Unger, Matthew; Stallworth, Karly; Cameron, Debra; Rotunno, Melissa S; et al. (2024-03-20)
    Microglia play a pivotal role in neurodegenerative disease pathogenesis, but the mechanisms underlying microglia dysfunction and toxicity remain to be elucidated. To investigate the effect of neurodegenerative disease-linked genes on the intrinsic properties of microglia, we studied microglia-like cells derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), termed iMGs, harboring mutations in profilin-1 (PFN1) that are causative for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). ALS-PFN1 iMGs exhibited evidence of lipid dysmetabolism, autophagy dysregulation and deficient phagocytosis, a canonical microglia function. Mutant PFN1 also displayed enhanced binding affinity for PI3P, a critical signaling molecule involved in autophagic and endocytic processing. Our cumulative data implicate a gain-of-toxic function for mutant PFN1 within the autophagic and endo-lysosomal pathways, as administration of rapamycin rescued phagocytic dysfunction in ALS-PFN1 iMGs. These outcomes demonstrate the utility of iMGs for neurodegenerative disease research and implicate microglial vesicular degradation pathways in the pathogenesis of these disorders.
  • Multicenter integrated analysis of noncoding CRISPRi screens

    Yao, David; Tycko, Josh; Oh, Jin Woo; Bounds, Lexi R; Gosai, Sager J; Lataniotis, Lazaros; Mackay-Smith, Ava; Doughty, Benjamin R; Gabdank, Idan; Schmidt, Henri; et al. (2024-03-19)
    The ENCODE Consortium's efforts to annotate noncoding cis-regulatory elements (CREs) have advanced our understanding of gene regulatory landscapes. Pooled, noncoding CRISPR screens offer a systematic approach to investigate cis-regulatory mechanisms. The ENCODE4 Functional Characterization Centers conducted 108 screens in human cell lines, comprising >540,000 perturbations across 24.85 megabases of the genome. Using 332 functionally confirmed CRE-gene links in K562 cells, we established guidelines for screening endogenous noncoding elements with CRISPR interference (CRISPRi), including accurate detection of CREs that exhibit variable, often low, transcriptional effects. Benchmarking five screen analysis tools, we find that CASA produces the most conservative CRE calls and is robust to artifacts of low-specificity single guide RNAs. We uncover a subtle DNA strand bias for CRISPRi in transcribed regions with implications for screen design and analysis. Together, we provide an accessible data resource, predesigned single guide RNAs for targeting 3,275,697 ENCODE SCREEN candidate CREs with CRISPRi and screening guidelines to accelerate functional characterization of the noncoding genome.
  • Genome-wide association study identifies 30 obsessive-compulsive disorder associated loci [preprint]

    Strom, Nora I; Gerring, Zachary F; Galimberti, Marco; Yu, Dongmei; Halvorsen, Matthew W; Abdellaoui, Abdel; Rodriguez-Fontenla, Cristina; Sealock, Julia M; Bigdeli, Tim; Coleman, Jonathan R; et al. (2024-03-13)
    Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) affects ~1% of the population and exhibits a high SNP-heritability, yet previous genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have provided limited information on the genetic etiology and underlying biological mechanisms of the disorder. We conducted a GWAS meta-analysis combining 53,660 OCD cases and 2,044,417 controls from 28 European-ancestry cohorts revealing 30 independent genome-wide significant SNPs and a SNP-based heritability of 6.7%. Separate GWAS for clinical, biobank, comorbid, and self-report sub-groups found no evidence of sample ascertainment impacting our results. Functional and positional QTL gene-based approaches identified 249 significant candidate risk genes for OCD, of which 25 were identified as putatively causal, highlighting WDR6, DALRD3, CTNND1 and genes in the MHC region. Tissue and single-cell enrichment analyses highlighted hippocampal and cortical excitatory neurons, along with D1- and D2-type dopamine receptor-containing medium spiny neurons, as playing a role in OCD risk. OCD displayed significant genetic correlations with 65 out of 112 examined phenotypes. Notably, it showed positive genetic correlations with all included psychiatric phenotypes, in particular anxiety, depression, anorexia nervosa, and Tourette syndrome, and negative correlations with a subset of the included autoimmune disorders, educational attainment, and body mass index.. This study marks a significant step toward unraveling its genetic landscape and advances understanding of OCD genetics, providing a foundation for future interventions to address this debilitating disorder.
  • Evaluating the spike in the symptomatic proportion of SARS-CoV-2 in China in 2022 with variolation effects: a modeling analysis

    Musa, Salihu S; Zhao, Shi; Abdulrashid, Ismail; Qureshi, Sania; Colubri, Andrés; He, Daihai (2024-03-11)
    Despite most COVID-19 infections being asymptomatic, mainland China had a high increase in symptomatic cases at the end of 2022. In this study, we examine China's sudden COVID-19 symptomatic surge using a conceptual SIR-based model. Our model considers the epidemiological characteristics of SARS-CoV-2, particularly variolation, from non-pharmaceutical intervention (facial masking and social distance), demography, and disease mortality in mainland China. The increase in symptomatic proportions in China may be attributable to (1) higher sensitivity and vulnerability during winter and (2) enhanced viral inhalation due to spikes in SARS-CoV-2 infections (high transmissibility). These two reasons could explain China's high symptomatic proportion of COVID-19 in December 2022. Our study, therefore, can serve as a decision-support tool to enhance SARS-CoV-2 prevention and control efforts. Thus, we highlight that facemask-induced variolation could potentially reduces transmissibility rather than severity in infected individuals. However, further investigation is required to understand the variolation effect on disease severity.
  • Genome-wide association study identifies new loci associated with OCD [preprint]

    Strom, Nora I; Halvorsen, Matthew W; Tian, Chao; Rück, Christian; Kvale, Gerd; Hansen, Bjarne; Bybjerg-Grauholm, Jonas; Grove, Jakob; Boberg, Julia; Nissen, Judith Becker; et al. (2024-03-08)
    To date, four genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have been published, reporting a high single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)-heritability of 28% but finding only one significant SNP. A substantial increase in sample size will likely lead to further identification of SNPs, genes, and biological pathways mediating the susceptibility to OCD. We conducted a GWAS meta-analysis with a 2-3-fold increase in case sample size (OCD cases: N = 37,015, controls: N = 948,616) compared to the last OCD GWAS, including six previously published cohorts (OCGAS, IOCDF-GC, IOCDF-GC-trio, NORDiC-nor, NORDiC-swe, and iPSYCH) and unpublished self-report data from 23andMe Inc. We explored the genetic architecture of OCD by conducting gene-based tests, tissue and celltype enrichment analyses, and estimating heritability and genetic correlations with 74 phenotypes. To examine a potential heterogeneity in our data, we conducted multivariable GWASs with MTAG. We found support for 15 independent genome-wide significant loci (14 new) and 79 protein-coding genes. Tissue enrichment analyses implicate multiple cortical regions, the amygdala, and hypothalamus, while cell type analyses yielded 12 cell types linked to OCD (all neurons). The SNP-based heritability of OCD was estimated to be 0.08. Using MTAG we found evidence for specific genetic underpinnings characteristic of different cohort-ascertainment and identified additional significant SNPs. OCD was genetically correlated with 40 disorders or traits-positively with all psychiatric disorders and negatively with BMI, age at first birth and multiple autoimmune diseases. The GWAS meta-analysis identified several biologically informative genes as important contributors to the aetiology of OCD. Overall, we have begun laying the groundwork through which the biology of OCD will be understood and described.
  • Tunable DNMT1 degradation reveals DNMT1/DNMT3B synergy in DNA methylation and genome organization

    Scelfo, Andrea; Barra, Viviana; Abdennur, Nezar; Spracklin, George; Busato, Florence; Salinas-Luypaert, Catalina; Bonaiti, Elena; Velasco, Guillaume; Bonhomme, Frédéric; Chipont, Anna; et al. (2024-02-20)
    DNA methylation (DNAme) is a key epigenetic mark that regulates critical biological processes maintaining overall genome stability. Given its pleiotropic function, studies of DNAme dynamics are crucial, but currently available tools to interfere with DNAme have limitations and major cytotoxic side effects. Here, we present cell models that allow inducible and reversible DNAme modulation through DNMT1 depletion. By dynamically assessing whole genome and locus-specific effects of induced passive demethylation through cell divisions, we reveal a cooperative activity between DNMT1 and DNMT3B, but not of DNMT3A, to maintain and control DNAme. We show that gradual loss of DNAme is accompanied by progressive and reversible changes in heterochromatin, compartmentalization, and peripheral localization. DNA methylation loss coincides with a gradual reduction of cell fitness due to G1 arrest, with minor levels of mitotic failure. Altogether, this system allows DNMTs and DNA methylation studies with fine temporal resolution, which may help to reveal the etiologic link between DNAme dysfunction and human disease.
  • Bigtools: a high-performance BigWig and BigBed library in Rust [preprint]

    Huey, Jack; Abdennur, Nezar (2024-02-08)
    The BigWig and BigBed file formats were originally designed for the visualization of next-generation sequencing data through a genome browser. Due to their versatility, these formats have long since become ubiquitous for the storage of processed sequencing data and regularly serve as the basis for downstream data analysis. As the number and size of sequencing experiments continues to accelerate, there is an increasing demand to efficiently generate and query BigWig and BigBed files in a scalable and robust manner, and to efficiently integrate these functionalities into data analysis environments and third-party applications. Here, we present Bigtools, a feature-complete, high-performance, and integrable software library for generating and querying both BigWig and BigBed files. Bigtools is written in the Rust programming language and includes a flexible suite of command line tools as well as bindings to Python. Bigtools is cross-platform and released under the MIT license. It is distributed on Crates.io and the Python Package Index, and the source code is available at https://github.com/jackh726/bigtools.
  • Genome-wide association study identifies human genetic variants associated with fatal outcome from Lassa fever

    Kotliar, Dylan; Raju, Siddharth; Tabrizi, Shervin; Odia, Ikponmwosa; Goba, Augustine; Momoh, Mambu; Sandi, John Demby; Nair, Parvathy; Phelan, Eric; Tariyal, Ridhi; et al. (2024-02-07)
    Infection with Lassa virus (LASV) can cause Lassa fever, a haemorrhagic illness with an estimated fatality rate of 29.7%, but causes no or mild symptoms in many individuals. Here, to investigate whether human genetic variation underlies the heterogeneity of LASV infection, we carried out genome-wide association studies (GWAS) as well as seroprevalence surveys, human leukocyte antigen typing and high-throughput variant functional characterization assays. We analysed Lassa fever susceptibility and fatal outcomes in 533 cases of Lassa fever and 1,986 population controls recruited over a 7 year period in Nigeria and Sierra Leone. We detected genome-wide significant variant associations with Lassa fever fatal outcomes near GRM7 and LIF in the Nigerian cohort. We also show that a haplotype bearing signatures of positive selection and overlapping LARGE1, a required LASV entry factor, is associated with decreased risk of Lassa fever in the Nigerian cohort but not in the Sierra Leone cohort. Overall, we identified variants and genes that may impact the risk of severe Lassa fever, demonstrating how GWAS can provide insight into viral pathogenesis.
  • Bioframe: operations on genomic intervals in Pandas dataframes

    Abdennur, Nezar; Fudenberg, Geoffrey; Flyamer, Ilya M; Galitsyna, Aleksandra A; Goloborodko, Anton; Imakaev, Maxim; Venev, Sergey V (2024-02-01)
    Motivation: Genomic intervals are one of the most prevalent data structures in computational genome biology, and used to represent features ranging from genes, to DNA binding sites, to disease variants. Operations on genomic intervals provide a language for asking questions about relationships between features. While there are excellent interval arithmetic tools for the command line, they are not smoothly integrated into Python, one of the most popular general-purpose computational and visualization environments. Results: Bioframe is a library to enable flexible and performant operations on genomic interval dataframes in Python. Bioframe extends the Python data science stack to use cases for computational genome biology by building directly on top of two of the most commonly-used Python libraries, NumPy and Pandas. The bioframe API enables flexible name and column orders, and decouples operations from data formats to avoid unnecessary conversions, a common scourge for bioinformaticians. Bioframe achieves these goals while maintaining high performance and a rich set of features. Availability and implementation: Bioframe is open-source under MIT license, cross-platform, and can be installed from the Python Package Index. The source code is maintained by Open2C on GitHub at https://github.com/open2c/bioframe.
  • Investigating the etiologies of non-malarial febrile illness in Senegal using metagenomic sequencing

    Levine, Zoë C; Sene, Aita; Mkandawire, Winnie; Deme, Awa B; Ndiaye, Tolla; Sy, Mouhamad; Gaye, Amy; Diedhiou, Younouss; Mbaye, Amadou M; Ndiaye, Ibrahima M; et al. (2024-01-25)
    The worldwide decline in malaria incidence is revealing the extensive burden of non-malarial febrile illness (NMFI), which remains poorly understood and difficult to diagnose. To characterize NMFI in Senegal, we collected venous blood and clinical metadata in a cross-sectional study of febrile patients and healthy controls in a low malaria burden area. Using 16S and untargeted sequencing, we detected viral, bacterial, or eukaryotic pathogens in 23% (38/163) of NMFI cases. Bacteria were the most common, with relapsing fever Borrelia and spotted fever Rickettsia found in 15.5% and 3.8% of cases, respectively. Four viral pathogens were found in a total of 7 febrile cases (3.5%). Sequencing also detected undiagnosed Plasmodium, including one putative P. ovale infection. We developed a logistic regression model that can distinguish Borrelia from NMFIs with similar presentation based on symptoms and vital signs (F1 score: 0.823). These results highlight the challenge and importance of improved diagnostics, especially for Borrelia, to support diagnosis and surveillance.
  • Dog size and patterns of disease history across the canine age spectrum: Results from the Dog Aging Project

    Nam, Yunbi; White, Michelle; Karlsson, Elinor K; Creevy, Kate E; Promislow, Daniel E L; McClelland, Robyn L (2024-01-17)
    Age in dogs is associated with the risk of many diseases, and canine size is a major factor in that risk. However, the size patterns are complex. While small size dogs tend to live longer, some diseases are more prevalent among small dogs. In this study we seek to quantify how the pattern of disease history varies across the spectrum of dog size, dog age, and their interaction. Utilizing owner-reported data on disease history from a substantial number of companion dogs enrolled in the Dog Aging Project, we investigate how body size, as measured by weight, associates with the lifetime prevalence of a reported condition and its pattern across age for various disease categories. We found significant positive associations between dog size and the lifetime prevalence of skin, bone/orthopedic, gastrointestinal, ear/nose/throat, cancer/tumor, brain/neurologic, endocrine, and infectious diseases. Similarly, dog size was negatively associated with lifetime prevalence of ocular, cardiac, liver/pancreas, and respiratory disease categories. Kidney/urinary disease prevalence did not vary by size. We also found that the association between age and lifetime disease prevalence varied by dog size for many conditions including ocular, cardiac, orthopedic, ear/nose/throat, and cancer. Controlling for sex, purebred vs. mixed-breed status, and geographic region made little difference in all disease categories we studied. Our results align with the reduced lifespan in larger dogs for most of the disease categories and suggest potential avenues for further examination.

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