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The COllaborative project of Development of Anthropometrical measures in Twins (CODATwins) project is a large international collaborative effort to analyze individual-level phenotype data from twins in multiple cohorts from different environments. The main objective is to study factors that modify genetic and environmental variation of height, body mass index (BMI, kg/m2) and size at birth, and additionally to address other research questions such as long-term consequences of birth size. The project started in 2013 and is open to all twin projects in the world having height and weight measures on twins with information on zygosity. Thus far, 54 twin projects from 24 countries have provided individual-level data. The CODATwins database includes 489,981 twin individuals (228,635 complete twin pairs). Since many twin cohorts have collected longitudinal data, there is a total of 1,049,785 height and weight observations. For many cohorts, we also have information on birth weight and length, own smoking behavior and own or parental education. We found that the heritability estimates of height and BMI systematically changed from infancy to old age. Remarkably, only minor differences in the heritability estimates were found across cultural–geographic regions, measurement time and birth cohort for height and BMI. In addition to genetic epidemiological studies, we looked at associations of height and BMI with education, birth weight and smoking status. Within-family analyses examined differences within same-sex and opposite-sex dizygotic twins in birth size and later development. The CODATwins project demonstrates the feasibility and value of international collaboration to address gene-by-exposure interactions that require large sample sizes and address the effects of different exposures across time, geographical regions and socioeconomic status.
A nineteen element mercuric iodide (HgI2) detector array has been developed in order to investigate the potential of using this technology for in-vivo x-ray and gamma-ray imaging. A prototype cross-grid detector array was constructed with hexagonal pixels of 1.9 mm diameter (active area = 3.28 mm2) and 0.2 mm thick septa. The overall detector active area is roughly 65 mm2. A detector thickness of 1.2 mm was used to achieve about 100% efficiency at 60 keV and 67% efficiency at 140 keV The detector fabrication, geometry and structure were optimized for charge collection and to minimize crosstalk between elements. A section of a standard high resolution cast-lead gamma-camera collimator was incorporated into the detector to provide collimation matching the discrete pixel geometry. Measurements of spectral and spatial performance of the array were made using 241-Am and 99m-Tc sources. These measurements were compared with similar measurements made using an optimized single HgI2 x-ray detector with active area of about 3 mm2 and thickness of 500 μm.
Breakthrough Listen is a 10-yr initiative to search for signatures of technologies created by extraterrestrial civilisations at radio and optical wavelengths. Here, we detail the digital data recording system deployed for Breakthrough Listen observations at the 64-m aperture CSIRO Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia. The recording system currently implements two modes: a dual-polarisation, 1.125-GHz bandwidth mode for single-beam observations, and a 26-input, 308-MHz bandwidth mode for the 21-cm multibeam receiver. The system is also designed to support a 3-GHz single-beam mode for the forthcoming Parkes ultra-wideband feed. In this paper, we present details of the system architecture, provide an overview of hardware and software, and present initial performance results.
Developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD) is the study of how the early life environment can impact the risk of chronic diseases from childhood to adulthood and the mechanisms involved. Epigenetic modifications such as DNA methylation, histone modifications and non-coding RNAs are involved in mediating how early life environment impacts later health. This review is a summary of the Epigenetics and DOHaD workshop held at the 2016 DOHaD Society of Australia and New Zealand Conference. Our extensive knowledge of how the early life environment impacts later risk for chronic disease would not have been possible without animal models. In this review we highlight some animal model examples that demonstrate how an adverse early life exposure results in epigenetic and gene expression changes that may contribute to increased risk of chronic disease later in life. Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease are chronic diseases with an increasing incidence due to the increased number of children and adults that are obese. Epigenetic changes such as DNA methylation have been shown to be associated with metabolic health measures and potentially predict future metabolic health status. Although more difficult to elucidate in humans, recent studies suggest that DNA methylation may be one of the epigenetic mechanisms that mediates the effects of early life exposures on later life risk of obesity and obesity related diseases. Finally, we discuss the role of the microbiome and how it is a new player in developmental programming and mediating early life exposures on later risk of chronic disease.
Poorer patient views of mental health inpatient treatment predict both further admissions and, for those admitted involuntarily, longer admissions. As advocated in the UK Francis report, we investigated the hypothesis that improving staff training improves patients’ views of ward care.
Cluster randomised trial with stepped wedge design in 16 acute mental health wards randomised (using the ralloc procedure in Stata) by an independent statistician in three waves to staff training. A psychologist trained ward staff on evidence-based group interventions and then supported their introduction to each ward. The main outcome was blind self-report of perceptions of care (VOICE) before or up to 2 years after staff training between November 2008 and January 2013.
In total, 1108 inpatients took part (616 admitted involuntarily under the English Mental Health Act). On average 51.6 staff training sessions were provided per ward. Involuntary patient's perceptions of, and satisfaction with, mental health wards improved after staff training (N582, standardised effect −0·35, 95% CI −0·57 to −0·12, p = 0·002; interaction p value 0·006) but no benefit to those admitted voluntarily (N469, −0.01, 95% CI −0.23 to 0.22, p = 0.955) and no strong evidence of an overall effect (N1058, standardised effect −0.18 s.d., 95% CI −0.38 to 0.01, p = 0.062). The training costs around £10 per patient per week. Resource allocation changed towards patient perceived meaningful contacts by an average of £12 (95% CI −£76 to £98, p = 0.774).
Staff training improved the perceptions of the therapeutic environment in those least likely to want an inpatient admission, those formally detained. This change might enhance future engagement with all mental health services and prevent the more costly admissions.
Echinococcosis is a re-emerging zoonotic disease in Kyrgyzstan. In 2012, an echinococcosis control scheme was started that included dosing owned dogs in the Alay Valley, Kyrgyzstan with praziquantel. Control programmes require large investments of money and resources; as such it is important to evaluate how well these are meeting their targets. However, problems associated with echinococcosis control schemes include remoteness and semi-nomadic customs of affected communities, and lack of resources. These same problems apply to control scheme evaluations, and quick and easy assessment tools are highly desirable. Lot quality assurance sampling was used to assess the impact of approximately 2 years of echinococcosis control in the Alay valley. A pre-intervention coproELISA prevalence was established, and a 75% threshold for dosing compliance was set based on previous studies. Ten communities were visited in 2013 and 2014, with 18–21 dogs sampled per community, and questionnaires administered to dog owners. After 21 months of control efforts, 8/10 communities showed evidence of reaching the 75% praziquantel dosing target, although only 3/10 showed evidence of a reduction in coproELISA prevalence. This is understandable, since years of sustained control are required to effectively control echinococcosis, and efforts in the Alay valley should be and are being continued.
Evidence has accumulated that implicates childhood trauma in the aetiology of psychosis, but our understanding of the putative psychological processes and mechanisms through which childhood trauma impacts on individuals and contributes to the development of psychosis remains limited. We aimed to investigate whether stress sensitivity and threat anticipation underlie the association between childhood abuse and psychosis.
We used the Experience Sampling Method to measure stress, threat anticipation, negative affect, and psychotic experiences in 50 first-episode psychosis (FEP) patients, 44 At-Risk Mental State (ARMS) participants, and 52 controls. Childhood abuse was assessed using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire.
Associations of minor socio-environmental stress in daily life with negative affect and psychotic experiences were modified by sexual abuse and group (all pFWE < 0.05). While there was strong evidence that these associations were greater in FEP exposed to high levels of sexual abuse, and some evidence of greater associations in ARMS exposed to high levels of sexual abuse, controls exposed to high levels of sexual abuse were more resilient and reported less intense negative emotional reactions to socio-environmental stress. A similar pattern was evident for threat anticipation.
Elevated sensitivity and lack of resilience to socio-environmental stress and enhanced threat anticipation in daily life may be important psychological processes underlying the association between childhood sexual abuse and psychosis.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a common and disabling condition with well-established heritability and environmental risk factors. Gene–environment interaction studies in MDD have typically investigated candidate genes, though the disorder is known to be highly polygenic. This study aims to test for interaction between polygenic risk and stressful life events (SLEs) or childhood trauma (CT) in the aetiology of MDD.
The RADIANT UK sample consists of 1605 MDD cases and 1064 controls with SLE data, and a subset of 240 cases and 272 controls with CT data. Polygenic risk scores (PRS) were constructed using results from a mega-analysis on MDD by the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium. PRS and environmental factors were tested for association with case/control status and for interaction between them.
PRS significantly predicted depression, explaining 1.1% of variance in phenotype (p = 1.9 × 10−6). SLEs and CT were also associated with MDD status (p = 2.19 × 10−4 and p = 5.12 × 10−20, respectively). No interactions were found between PRS and SLEs. Significant PRSxCT interactions were found (p = 0.002), but showed an inverse association with MDD status, as cases who experienced more severe CT tended to have a lower PRS than other cases or controls. This relationship between PRS and CT was not observed in independent replication samples.
CT is a strong risk factor for MDD but may have greater effect in individuals with lower genetic liability for the disorder. Including environmental risk along with genetics is important in studying the aetiology of MDD and PRS provide a useful approach to investigating gene–environment interactions in complex traits.
A trend toward greater body size in dizygotic (DZ) than in monozygotic (MZ) twins has been suggested by some but not all studies, and this difference may also vary by age. We analyzed zygosity differences in mean values and variances of height and body mass index (BMI) among male and female twins from infancy to old age. Data were derived from an international database of 54 twin cohorts participating in the COllaborative project of Development of Anthropometrical measures in Twins (CODATwins), and included 842,951 height and BMI measurements from twins aged 1 to 102 years. The results showed that DZ twins were consistently taller than MZ twins, with differences of up to 2.0 cm in childhood and adolescence and up to 0.9 cm in adulthood. Similarly, a greater mean BMI of up to 0.3 kg/m2 in childhood and adolescence and up to 0.2 kg/m2 in adulthood was observed in DZ twins, although the pattern was less consistent. DZ twins presented up to 1.7% greater height and 1.9% greater BMI than MZ twins; these percentage differences were largest in middle and late childhood and decreased with age in both sexes. The variance of height was similar in MZ and DZ twins at most ages. In contrast, the variance of BMI was significantly higher in DZ than in MZ twins, particularly in childhood. In conclusion, DZ twins were generally taller and had greater BMI than MZ twins, but the differences decreased with age in both sexes.
For over 100 years, the genetics of human anthropometric traits has attracted scientific interest. In particular, height and body mass index (BMI, calculated as kg/m2) have been under intensive genetic research. However, it is still largely unknown whether and how heritability estimates vary between human populations. Opportunities to address this question have increased recently because of the establishment of many new twin cohorts and the increasing accumulation of data in established twin cohorts. We started a new research project to analyze systematically (1) the variation of heritability estimates of height, BMI and their trajectories over the life course between birth cohorts, ethnicities and countries, and (2) to study the effects of birth-related factors, education and smoking on these anthropometric traits and whether these effects vary between twin cohorts. We identified 67 twin projects, including both monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins, using various sources. We asked for individual level data on height and weight including repeated measurements, birth related traits, background variables, education and smoking. By the end of 2014, 48 projects participated. Together, we have 893,458 height and weight measures (52% females) from 434,723 twin individuals, including 201,192 complete twin pairs (40% monozygotic, 40% same-sex dizygotic and 20% opposite-sex dizygotic) representing 22 countries. This project demonstrates that large-scale international twin studies are feasible and can promote the use of existing data for novel research purposes.
Toxoplasma gondii is a globally distributed parasite infecting humans and warm-blooded animals. Although many surveys have been conducted for T. gondii infection in mammals, little is known about the detailed distribution in localized natural populations. In this study, host genotype and spatial location were investigated in relation to T. gondii infection. Wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) were collected from 4 sampling sites within a localized peri-aquatic woodland ecosystem. Mice were genotyped using standard A. sylvaticus microsatellite markers and T. gondii was detected using 4 specific PCR-based markers: SAG1, SAG2, SAG3 and GRA6 directly from infected tissue. Of 126 wood mice collected, 44 samples were positive giving an infection rate of 34·92% (95% CI: 27·14–43·59%). Juvenile, young adults and adults were infected at a similar prevalence, respectively, 7/17 (41·18%), 27/65 (41·54%) and 10/44 (22·72%) with no significant age-prevalence effect (P = 0·23). Results of genetic analysis of the mice showed that the collection consists of 4 genetically distinct populations. There was a significant difference in T. gondii prevalence in the different genotypically derived mouse populations (P = 0·035) but not between geographically defined populations (P = 0·29). These data point to either a host genetic/family influence on parasite infection or to parasite vertical transmission.
In the eastern Tibetan plateau both human cystic and alveolar echinococcosis (AE) caused by infection with Echincoccus granulosus or Echinococcus multilocularis, respectively are highly endemic. The domestic dog plays a key role in zoonotic transmission in this region. Our primary objective was to investigate the role of domestic dogs in maintaining transmission of E. multilocularis in Shiqu county, Sichuan. A cohort of 281 dogs was followed up over one year after a single treatment with praziquantel followed by re-infection surveillance at 2, 5 and 12 months post-treatment. Faecal samples were tested by an Echinococcus genus-specific coproantigen ELISA and two species-specific copro-PCR tests. Total Echinococcus coproantigen prevalence in Shiqu at baseline was 21% and 9·6% after 2 months. E. multilocularis copro-PCR was positive in 11·2% of dogs before treatment (vs 3·6% with E. granulosus copro-DNA), 2·9% at 2 months post-treatment, and 0% at 5 month and 12 months. The results suggest that dogs may have the potential to maintain E. multilocularis transmission within local pastoral communities, and thus dog dosing could be an effective strategy to reduce transmission of E. multilocularis as well as E. granulosus in these co-endemic Tibetan communities.
The taxonomy of Echinococcus has long been controversial. Based mainly on differences in morphology and host-parasite specificity characteristics, 16 species and 13 subspecies were originally described. Subsequently, most of these taxa were regarded as synonyms for Echinococcus granulosus and only 4 valid species were recognised: E. granulosus; E. multilocularis; E. oligarthrus and E. vogeli. But, over the past 50 years, laboratory and field observations have revealed considerable phenotypic variability between isolates of Echinococcus, particularly those of E. granulosus, which include differences in: morphology in both larval and adult stages, development in vitro and in vivo, host infectivity and specificity, chemical composition, metabolism, proteins and enzymes, pathogenicity and antigenicity. The application of molecular tools has revealed differences in nucleic acid sequences that reflect this phenotypic variation and the genetic and phenotypic characteristics complement the previous observations made by the descriptive parasitologists many years ago. The fact that some of these variants or strains are poorly or not infective to humans has resulted in a reappraisal of the public health significance of Echinococcus in areas where such variants occur. A revised taxonomy for species in the Echinococcus genus has been proposed that is generally accepted, and is based on the new molecular data and the biological and epidemiological characteristics of host-adapted species and strains.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, there was an increase in the number of cases of human echinococcosis recorded throughout central Asia. Between 1991 and 2001 incidence rates of cystic echinococcosis (CE) increased by 4 fold or more. There also appeared to be increases in prevalence of CE in livestock and prevalences of Echinococcus granulosus reported in dogs. The increase in human echinococcosis was associated with changes in livestock husbandry, decline in veterinary public health services, increases in dog populations and increased poverty, all of which served to promote transmission of E. granulosus. A few years after reports of increased transmission of E. granulosus, the first reports of E. multilocularis infection in dogs were recorded. Further studies indicated that in both Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan prevalences of up to 18% were present. Recently there has been a dramatic increase in the number of cases of human alveolar echinococcosis recorded in Kyrgyzstan with over 60 cases reported in 2011.