Better tests for Zika, more evidence that AD transmits, and why identical twins diverge on weight. This week in Abstract Science.

Zika Tests In Development

(The Scientist, 1/25/2016, Kerry Grens)

With reports of the mosquito-borne Zika virus growing, several scientific groups are accelerating research to develop immunological reagents and assays that could confirm whether a person has been infected. Currently, the standard assay for Zika viral infection is a PCR test that probes for the presence of viral RNA in a sample. While it works well to detect the virus, the pathogen’s RNA is only around for a short period of time. Researchers would really like is to be able to determine whether a baby was exposed to Zika in utero months earlier. So scientists at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can perform what’s called a plaque-reduction neutralization test, which can pick up on past infections.

More Evidence AD Transmits

(Nature, 1/26/2016, Alison Abbott)

For the second time in four months, researchers have reported autopsy results that suggest Alzheimer’s disease might occasionally be transmitted to people during certain medical treatments — although scientists say that neither set of findings is conclusive. The latest round of data comes from a study, described this week in the Swiss Medical Weekly, of seven people who died from the rare, brain-wasting Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD). The individuals had all received surgical grafts of dura mater — the membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord—prepared from human cadavers. The tissue was found to be contaminated with the prion protein that causes CJD. Five of the brains also displayed some of the pathological signs that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The results follow a similar report from UK scientists in September.

Identical Except in Weight

(Science, 1/28/2016, Mitch Leslie)

A recent study in mutant uncovered a molecular mechanism for obesity that could explain why identical twins, alike in almost every way, diverge when it comes to weight. Changes in the intestinalmicrobiome are one possible reason for this phenomenon, the other is epigenetic changes or alterations in gene activity. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg, Germany reported their findings this week in the journal Cell.

—Compiled by Senior Scientific Writer Regina McEnery