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Concept: Kazakhstan


Self-rated health (SRH) has been widely studied to assess health inequalities in both developed and developing countries. However, no studies have been performed in Central Asia. The aim of the study was to assess gender-, ethnic-, and social inequalities in SRH in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Concepts: Asia, Cultural studies, South Asia, Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Silk Road, Astana, Turkmenistan


Very little is known about prevalence of common cardiovascular risk factors in Central Asia. The aim of the study was to assess the prevalence, awareness, treatment and control of arterial hypertension, and factors associated with these indices in a population sample of Astana, the new capital city of Kazakhstan.

Concepts: Myocardial infarction, Atherosclerosis, Iran, Turkey, Central Asia, Eurasia, Kazakhstan, Astana


The apple is the most common and culturally important fruit crop of temperate areas. The elucidation of its origin and domestication history is therefore of great interest. The wild Central Asian species Malus sieversii has previously been identified as the main contributor to the genome of the cultivated apple (Malus domestica), on the basis of morphological, molecular, and historical evidence. The possible contribution of other wild species present along the Silk Route running from Asia to Western Europe remains a matter of debate, particularly with respect to the contribution of the European wild apple. We used microsatellite markers and an unprecedented large sampling of five Malus species throughout Eurasia (839 accessions from China to Spain) to show that multiple species have contributed to the genetic makeup of domesticated apples. The wild European crabapple M. sylvestris, in particular, was a major secondary contributor. Bidirectional gene flow between the domesticated apple and the European crabapple resulted in the current M. domestica being genetically more closely related to this species than to its Central Asian progenitor, M. sieversii. We found no evidence of a domestication bottleneck or clonal population structure in apples, despite the use of vegetative propagation by grafting. We show that the evolution of domesticated apples occurred over a long time period and involved more than one wild species. Our results support the view that self-incompatibility, a long lifespan, and cultural practices such as selection from open-pollinated seeds have facilitated introgression from wild relatives and the maintenance of genetic variation during domestication. This combination of processes may account for the diversification of several long-lived perennial crops, yielding domestication patterns different from those observed for annual species.

Concepts: Seed, Apple, Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Malus, Malus sieversii, Malus sylvestris, Apples


Human selection has reshaped crop genomes. Here we report an apple genome variation map generated through genome sequencing of 117 diverse accessions. A comprehensive model of apple speciation and domestication along the Silk Road is proposed based on evidence from diverse genomic analyses. Cultivated apples likely originate from Malus sieversii in Kazakhstan, followed by intensive introgressions from M. sylvestris. M. sieversii in Xinjiang of China turns out to be an “ancient” isolated ecotype not directly contributing to apple domestication. We have identified selective sweeps underlying quantitative trait loci/genes of important fruit quality traits including fruit texture and flavor, and provide evidences supporting a model of apple fruit size evolution comprising two major events with one occurring prior to domestication and the other during domestication. This study outlines the genetic basis of apple domestication and evolution, and provides valuable information for facilitating marker-assisted breeding and apple improvement.Apple is one of the most important fruit crops. Here, the authors perform deep genome resequencing of 117 diverse accessions and reveal comprehensive models of apple origin, speciation, domestication, and fruit size evolution as well as candidate genes associated with important agronomic traits.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Natural selection, Agriculture, Genomics, Apple, Kazakhstan, Malus sieversii


An assessment of the radiological situation due to exposure to gamma radiation, radon and thoron was carried out at selected former uranium mining and processing sites in the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Gamma dose rate measurements were made using various field instruments and radon/thoron measurements were carried out using discriminative radon ((222)Rn)/thoron ((220)Rn) solid state nuclear track detectors (SSNTD). The detectors were exposed for an extended period of time, including at least three seasonal periods in a year, in different outdoor and indoor public and residential environments at the selected uranium legacy sites. The results showed that gamma, Rn and Tn doses were in general low, which consequently implies a low/relatively low radiological risk. The major radiation hazard is represented by abandoned radioactive filtration material that was being used as insulation by some Minkush residents (Kyrgyzstan) for a longer period of time. Annual radiation doses of several hundred mSv could be received as a consequence of using this material domestically. In addition, the gamma and Rn/Tn dose rates at Digmai, Tajikistan, could reach values of several 10 mSv/a. The doses of ionizing radiation deriving from external radiation (gamma dose rate), indoor radon and thoron with their short-lived progenies in several cases exceeded the recommended annual effective dose threshold level of 10 mSv. At none of the sites investigated did the individual annual effective doses exceed 30 mSv, the internationally recommended value for considering intervention. Current doses of ionizing radiation do not represent a serious hazard to the health of the resident public, but this issue should be adequately addressed to further reduce needless exposure of the resident public to ionizing radiation.

Concepts: Ionizing radiation, Radioactive decay, Radiation poisoning, Background radiation, Radon, Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan


Brucellosis is a well-known zoonotic disease that can cause severe economic and healthcare losses. Xinjiang, one of the biggest livestock husbandry sectors in China, has gone through increasing incidence of brucellosis in cattle and small ruminants recently. In this paper, 50 B. melitensis strains and 9 B. abortus strains collected from across Xinjiang area (from 2010 to 2015) were genotyped using multiple locus variable-number tandem-repeat (VNTR) analysis (MLVA) and multi-locus sequence typing (MLST). Based on 8 loci (MLVA-8), 50 B. melitensis strains were classified into three genotypes. Genotypes 42 (n=38, 76%) and 63 (n=11, 22%) were part of the East Mediterranean group, and one genotype with pattern of 1-5-3-13-2-4-3-2 represents a single-locus variant from genotype 63. MLVA-16 resolved 50 B. melitensis strains into 28 genotypes, of which 15 are unique to Xinjiang and 10 are in common with those in adjacent country Kazakhstan and neighboring provinces of China. Minimum Spanning Tree (MST) analysis implies that B. melitensis strains collected from across Kazakhstan, Xinjiang and China areas may share a common origin. Nine B. abortus strains were sorted into three genotypes by MLVA-8, genotypes 36 (n=7, 77.8%), 86 (n=1, 11.1%) and a new genotype with pattern of 4-5-3-13-2-2-3-1. Each B. abortus strain showed distinct MLVA-16 genotypes, suggesting that B. abortus species may possess more genetic diversity than B. melitensis. Using MLST, most B. melitensis strains (n=49) were identified as sequence type ST8, and most B. abortus strains (n=8) were recognized as ST2. Two new sequence types, ST37 and ST38, represented by single strain from B. melitensis and B. abortus species respectively, were also detected in this study. These results could facilitate the pathogen surveillance in the forthcoming eradication programs and serve as a guide in source tracking in case of new outbreaks occur.

Concepts: Genetics, People's Republic of China, Brucellosis, Livestock, Brucella melitensis, Brucella, Zoonosis, Kazakhstan


The present study was carried out to evaluate Cs-137 activity concentration in soil, water, vegetation, and cow’s milk at 10 locations within three regions (Abai, Ayaguz, and Urdzhar) to the southeast of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site (SNTS) in Kazakhstan. Cs-137 activity concentrations, determined using a pure Ge gamma-ray spectrometer, showed that, all samples collected did not exceed the National maximum allowable limits of 10,000 Bq/kg for soil, 100 Bq/kg for cow’s milk, 74 Bq/kg for vegetation, and 11 Bq/kg for water. Cs-137 is, therefore, not considered a health hazard in these regions. The highest levels of contamination were found in the Abai region, where the highest activity concentration of Cs-137 was 18.0 ± 1.0 Bq/kg in soil, 7.60 ± 0.31 Bq/kg in cow’s milk, 4.00 ± 0.14 Bq/kg in the vegetation, and 3.00 ± 0.24 Bq/kg in water. The lowest levels were measured within the Urdzhar region, where 4.00 ± 0.14 Bq/kg was found in the soil, 0.30 ± 0.02 Bq/kg in the cow’s milk, 1.00 ± 0.03 Bq/kg in the vegetation, and 0.20 ± 0.02 Bq/kg in the water.

Concepts: Milk, Chemical equilibrium, Gamma ray, Russia, Soviet Union, Radioactive contamination, Kazakhstan, Post-Soviet states


The Turkic peoples represent a diverse collection of ethnic groups defined by the Turkic languages. These groups have dispersed across a vast area, including Siberia, Northwest China, Central Asia, East Europe, the Caucasus, Anatolia, the Middle East, and Afghanistan. The origin and early dispersal history of the Turkic peoples is disputed, with candidates for their ancient homeland ranging from the Transcaspian steppe to Manchuria in Northeast Asia. Previous genetic studies have not identified a clear-cut unifying genetic signal for the Turkic peoples, which lends support for language replacement rather than demic diffusion as the model for the Turkic language’s expansion. We addressed the genetic origin of 373 individuals from 22 Turkic-speaking populations, representing their current geographic range, by analyzing genome-wide high-density genotype data. In agreement with the elite dominance model of language expansion most of the Turkic peoples studied genetically resemble their geographic neighbors. However, western Turkic peoples sampled across West Eurasia shared an excess of long chromosomal tracts that are identical by descent (IBD) with populations from present-day South Siberia and Mongolia (SSM), an area where historians center a series of early Turkic and non-Turkic steppe polities. While SSM matching IBD tracts (> 1cM) are also observed in non-Turkic populations, Turkic peoples demonstrate a higher percentage of such tracts (p-values ≤ 0.01) compared to their non-Turkic neighbors. Finally, we used the ALDER method and inferred admixture dates (~9th-17th centuries) that overlap with the Turkic migrations of the 5th-16th centuries. Thus, our results indicate historical admixture among Turkic peoples, and the recent shared ancestry with modern populations in SSM supports one of the hypothesized homelands for their nomadic Turkic and related Mongolic ancestors.

Concepts: Europe, Asia, Turkey, Russia, Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Siberia, Turkic peoples


Archaeological evidence for human dispersal through northern Eurasia before 40,000 years ago is rare. In west Siberia, the northernmost find of that age is located at 57°N. Elsewhere, the earliest presence of humans in the Arctic is commonly thought to be circa 35,000 to 30,000 years before the present. A mammoth kill site in the central Siberian Arctic, dated to 45,000 years before the present, expands the populated area to almost 72°N. The advancement of mammoth hunting probably allowed people to survive and spread widely across northernmost Arctic Siberia.

Concepts: Human, Asia, Human evolution, Russia, Archaeology, Central Asia, Eurasia, Kazakhstan


Despite decades of research across multiple disciplines, the early history of horse domestication remains poorly understood. On the basis of current evidence from archaeology, mitochondrial DNA, and Y-chromosomal sequencing, a number of different domestication scenarios have been proposed, ranging from the spread of domestic horses out of a restricted primary area of domestication to the domestication of numerous distinct wild horse populations. In this paper, we reconstruct both the population genetic structure of the extinct wild progenitor of domestic horses, Equus ferus, and the origin and spread of horse domestication in the Eurasian steppes by fitting a spatially explicit stepping-stone model to genotype data from >300 horses sampled across northern Eurasia. We find strong evidence for an expansion of E. ferus out of eastern Eurasia about 160 kya, likely reflecting the colonization of Eurasia by this species. Our best-fitting scenario further suggests that horse domestication originated in the western part of the Eurasian steppe and that domestic herds were repeatedly restocked with local wild horses as they spread out of this area. By showing that horse domestication was initiated in the western Eurasian steppe and that the spread of domestic herds across Eurasia involved extensive introgression from the wild, the scenario of horse domestication proposed here unites evidence from archaeology, mitochondrial DNA, and Y-chromosomal DNA.

Concepts: Horse, Steppe, Wild horse, Domestication of the horse, Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Eurasian, Eurasian Steppe