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In April 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) released its recovery plan for the jaguar Panthera onca after several decades of discussion, litigation and controversy about the status of the species in the USA. The USFWS estimated that potential habitat, south of the Interstate-10 highway in Arizona and New Mexico, had a carrying capacity of c. six jaguars, and so focused its recovery programme on areas south of the USA–Mexico border. Here we present a systematic review of the modelling and assessment efforts over the last 25 years, with a focus on areas north of Interstate-10 in Arizona and New Mexico, outside the recovery unit considered by the USFWS. Despite differences in data inputs, methods, and analytical extent, the nine previous studies found support for potential suitable jaguar habitat in the central mountain ranges of Arizona and New Mexico. Applying slightly modified versions of the USFWS model and recalculating an Arizona-focused model over both states provided additional confirmation. Extending the area of consideration also substantially raised the carrying capacity of habitats in Arizona and New Mexico, from six to 90 or 151 adult jaguars, using the modified USFWS models. This review demonstrates the crucial ways in which choosing the extent of analysis influences the conclusions of a conservation plan. More importantly, it opens a new opportunity for jaguar conservation in North America that could help address threats from habitat losses, climate change and border infrastructure.
Associations of socioenvironmental features like urbanicity and neighborhood deprivation with psychosis are well-established. An enduring question, however, is whether these associations are causal. Genetic confounding could occur due to downward mobility of individuals at high genetic risk for psychiatric problems into disadvantaged environments.
We examined correlations of five indices of genetic risk [polygenic risk scores (PRS) for schizophrenia and depression, maternal psychotic symptoms, family psychiatric history, and zygosity-based latent genetic risk] with multiple area-, neighborhood-, and family-level risks during upbringing. Data were from the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study, a nationally-representative cohort of 2232 British twins born in 1994–1995 and followed to age 18 (93% retention). Socioenvironmental risks included urbanicity, air pollution, neighborhood deprivation, neighborhood crime, neighborhood disorder, social cohesion, residential mobility, family poverty, and a cumulative environmental risk scale. At age 18, participants were privately interviewed about psychotic experiences.
Higher genetic risk on all indices was associated with riskier environments during upbringing. For example, participants with higher schizophrenia PRS (OR = 1.19, 95% CI = 1.06–1.33), depression PRS (OR = 1.20, 95% CI = 1.08–1.34), family history (OR = 1.25, 95% CI = 1.11–1.40), and latent genetic risk (OR = 1.21, 95% CI = 1.07–1.38) had accumulated more socioenvironmental risks for schizophrenia by age 18. However, associations between socioenvironmental risks and psychotic experiences mostly remained significant after covariate adjustment for genetic risk.
Genetic risk is correlated with socioenvironmental risk for schizophrenia during upbringing, but the associations between socioenvironmental risk and adolescent psychotic experiences appear, at present, to exist above and beyond this gene-environment correlation.
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has resulted in a global pandemic, and there is limited data on effective therapies. Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine, a live-attenuated strain derived from an isolate of Mycobacterium bovis and originally designed to prevent tuberculosis, has shown some efficacy against infection with unrelated pathogens. In this study, we reviewed 120 consecutive adult patients (≥18 years old) with COVID-19 at a major federally qualified health centre in Rhode Island, United States from 19 March to 29 April 2020. Median age was 39.5 years (interquartile range, 27.0–50.0), 30% were male and 87.5% were Latino/Hispanics. Eighty-two (68.3%) patients had BCG vaccination. Individuals with BCG vaccination were less likely to require hospital admission during the disease course (3.7% vs. 15.8%, P = 0.019). This association remained unchanged after adjusting for demographics and comorbidities (P = 0.017) using multivariate regression analysis. The finding from our study suggests the potential of BCG in preventing more severe COVID-19.
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.
The last 12 years have seen the evolution of a new funding regime under the supervision of the Pensions Regulator. Over this period, there has been significant turbulence in financial markets, including record low interest rates. This paper takes a critical look at the development of funding approaches and methodologies over this period. It analyses the Pensions Regulator guidance and how scheme specific actuarial methods have emerged since the move away from the Minimum Funding Requirement in 2001 and the introduction of the Scheme Specific Funding Requirements in 2005. It asks whether these new methodologies have been successful from the perspective of members, trustees, employers and shareholders. At a time when actuarial valuation methodologies have faced considerable criticism, this paper aims to propose a pension funding methodology which is fit for purpose and also reflects the latest guidance from the Pensions Regulator on integrated risk management.
Whether monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins differ from each other in a variety of phenotypes is important for genetic twin modeling and for inferences made from twin studies in general. We analyzed whether there were differences in individual, maternal and paternal education between MZ and DZ twins in a large pooled dataset. Information was gathered on individual education for 218,362 adult twins from 27 twin cohorts (53% females; 39% MZ twins), and on maternal and paternal education for 147,315 and 143,056 twins respectively, from 28 twin cohorts (52% females; 38% MZ twins). Together, we had information on individual or parental education from 42 twin cohorts representing 19 countries. The original education classifications were transformed to education years and analyzed using linear regression models. Overall, MZ males had 0.26 (95% CI [0.21, 0.31]) years and MZ females 0.17 (95% CI [0.12, 0.21]) years longer education than DZ twins. The zygosity difference became smaller in more recent birth cohorts for both males and females. Parental education was somewhat longer for fathers of DZ twins in cohorts born in 1990–1999 (0.16 years, 95% CI [0.08, 0.25]) and 2000 or later (0.11 years, 95% CI [0.00, 0.22]), compared with fathers of MZ twins. The results show that the years of both individual and parental education are largely similar in MZ and DZ twins. We suggest that the socio-economic differences between MZ and DZ twins are so small that inferences based upon genetic modeling of twin data are not affected.
We analyzed birth order differences in means and variances of height and body mass index (BMI) in monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins from infancy to old age. The data were derived from the international CODATwins database. The total number of height and BMI measures from 0.5 to 79.5 years of age was 397,466. As expected, first-born twins had greater birth weight than second-born twins. With respect to height, first-born twins were slightly taller than second-born twins in childhood. After adjusting the results for birth weight, the birth order differences decreased and were no longer statistically significant. First-born twins had greater BMI than the second-born twins over childhood and adolescence. After adjusting the results for birth weight, birth order was still associated with BMI until 12 years of age. No interaction effect between birth order and zygosity was found. Only limited evidence was found that birth order influenced variances of height or BMI. The results were similar among boys and girls and also in MZ and DZ twins. Overall, the differences in height and BMI between first- and second-born twins were modest even in early childhood, while adjustment for birth weight reduced the birth order differences but did not remove them for BMI.
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.
Adverse uterine environments caused by maternal stress (such as bacterial endotoxin) can alter programming of the fetal hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPAA) rendering offspring susceptible to various adulthood diseases. Thus, protection against this type of stress may be critical for ensuring offspring health. The present study was designed to determine if maternal supplementation with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) during pregnancy helps to protect against stress-induced fetal programming. Briefly, 53 ewes were fed a diet supplemented with fishmeal (FM) or soybean meal (SM) from day 100 of gestation (gd100) through lactation. On gd135, half the ewes from each dietary group were challenged with either 1.2 μg/kg Escherichia coli lipopolysaccharide (LPS) endotoxin, or saline as the control. The offspring’s cortisol response to weaning stress was assessed 50 days postpartum by measuring serum cortisol concentrations 0, 6 and 24 h post weaning. Twenty-four hours post-weaning, lambs were subjected to an adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) challenge (0.5 μg/kg) and serum cortisol concentrations were measured 0, 0.25, 0.5, 1 and 2 h post injection. At 5.5 months of age, offspring were also challenged with 400 ng/kg of LPS, and serum cortisol concentrations were measured 0, 2, 4 and 6 h post challenge. Interestingly, female offspring born to FM+LPS mothers had a greater cortisol response to weaning and endotoxin challenge compared with the other treatments, while female offspring born to SM+LPS mothers had a faster cortisol response to the ACTH stressor. Additionally, males born to FM+LPS mothers had a greater cortisol response to the ACTH challenge than the other treatments. Overall, FM supplementation during gestation combined with LPS challenge alters HPAA responsiveness of the offspring into adulthood.
Biogenic nitrogen (N2) and nitrous oxide (N2O) accumulations were measured in groundwater, streams and the vadose zone of small agricultural watersheds in the Mid-Atlantic USA. In general, N2 and N2O in excess of atmospheric equilibrium were found in groundwater virtually everywhere that was sampled. Excess N2 in groundwater ranged from undetectable to 616 μmol N2-N/l, the latter representing c. 50% of background N2. The N2O-N concentrations varied from undetectable to 75 μm, and usually greatly exceeded values at atmospheric equilibrium (25–30 nM); however, N2O was generally 1–10% of excess N2. Intermediate levels of deficit and excess N2 in flowing streams (−65 to +250 μmol N2-N/L) resulting from both abiotic and biotic processes were also measured. In vadose zone gases, multiple N2/Ar gas profiles were measured which exhibited seasonal variations with below atmospheric values when the soil was warming in spring/summer and above atmospheric values when groundwater was cooling in fall/winter. Both abiotic and biotic processes contributed to the excess N2 and N2O that was observed. The current data indicate that large concentrations of excess N gases can accumulate within soil, groundwater, and streams of agriculturally dominated watersheds. When excess N gases are exchanged with the atmosphere, the net fluxes to the atmosphere may represent an important loss term for watershed N budgets.
In recent years, livestock producers have been supplementing animal diets with fish meal (FM) to produce value-added products for health conscious consumers. As components of FM have unique neuroendocrine–immunomodulatory properties, we hypothesize that livestock producers may be influencing the overall health of their animals by supplementing diets with FM. In this study, 40 pregnant ewes were supplemented with rumen protected (RP) soybean meal (SBM: control diet) or RP FM, commencing gestation day 100 (gd100), in order to evaluate the impact of FM supplementation on the innate and acquired immune response and neuroendocrine response of sheep during pregnancy and lactation. On gd135, half the ewes from each diet (n = 10 FM, n = 10 SBM) were challenged iv with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) to simulate a systemic bacterial infection and the febrile, respiratory and neuroendocrine responses were monitored over time; the other half (n = 10 FM, n = 10 SBM) of the ewes received a saline injection as control. On lactation day 20 (ld20), all ewes (n = 20 FM, n = 20 SBM) were sensitized with hen egg white lysozyme (HEWL) and the serum haptoglobin (Hp) response was measured over time. The cutaneous hypersensitivity response (CHR) to HEWL challenge was measured on ld30 (n = 20 FM, n = 20 SBM), and blood samples were collected over time to measure the primary and secondary immunoglobulin G (IgG) response to HEWL. There was an attenuated trend in the LPS-induced febrile response by the FM treatment when compared with the SBM treatment (P = 0.06), as was also true for the respiratory response (P = 0.07), but significant differences in neuroendocrine function (serum cortisol and plasma ACTH) were not observed between treatments. Basal Hp levels were significantly lower in the FM supplemented ewes when compared with the SBM supplemented ewes (P < 0.01), and the Hp response to HEWL sensitization differed significantly over time between treatments (P < 0.01). The CHR to HEWL was also significantly attenuated in the FM treatment compared with the SBM (P < 0.01); however, treatment differences in the primary and secondary IgG responses to HEWL were not observed. These results indicate that FM supplementation differentially affects the innate and acquired immune responses in pregnant and lactating sheep compared with a typical SBM diet of commercial flocks. The long-term implications of this immunomodulation warrant further investigation.