A decline in diabetes cases, the more systematic approach to the nurture-nature debate and a sobering message about the war on AIDS. This week in Abstract Science.

Diabetes Cases Dropping

(New York Times, 12/1/2015, Sabrina Tavernise)

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released statistics this week showing that diabetes incidence declined for the sixth year in a row, an encouraging reversal for a disease that inflicts one in every 10 Americans and is the leading cause of blindness, limb amputations and kidney dialysis. What exactly is driving the decline is unclear, but growing evidence that eating habits have begun to improve could well be one of the factors, researchers say. Still, experts cautioned that the percentage of Americans with diabetes is still double what it was in the 1990s, and declines in incidence are uneven across different racial and ethnic groups. The number of new cases is dropping for whites, but the change has not been statistically significant for blacks or Hispanics, though both showed a downward trend.

Naturome or Nurturome

(GEN, 12/1/2015, Richard Stein)

There are plenty of studies examining the role of nature in human development, but nurture’s influence, though debated in the popular press, hasn’t really been examined in the scientific literature. The exposome, the accumulation of a person’s environmental exposures from conception onward, is helping to bring more scientific scrutiny to the nurture side. Over the last few years, and thanks to technological advances, scientists are thinking more critically about the effects of environmental exposures on development, phenotypic traits, and medical conditions on human development.

The US AIDS War

(NEJM, 12/3/2014, Thomas Frieden, Kathryn Foti, Jonathan Mermin)

America’s top public health scientist warns that despite declines in HIV incidence and long life expectancies for people with HIV/AIDS, most people living with infection in the US aren’t getting treated and that partner notification remains the exception rather than the rule. In a commentary appearing Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine and co-authored by two other leading scientists from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC Director Tom Frieden issues what is essentially a report card on the progress (or lack thereof) in applying basic public health principles, including surveillance, case detection, partner notification and early treatment. The release of the article was timed to coincide with World AIDS Day, Dec. 1.

—Compiled by Senior Scientific Writer Regina McEnery