UPSC IAS Prelims 2022 Material| Science and Tech Current Affairs | Biology and Biotechnology – Nov. 2021- 31st March, 2022

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Dear Friends,

This post is a part of our current affairs series for the UPSC IAS Prelims 2022. In this post, we have covered the Science and tech current affairs of the Biology and Biotechnology section. This post covers current affairs from Dec. 2021 to 15th March 2022. In the 2nd part, we will cover the rest of the current affairs of July 2021 to 31st April 2022.


Science and Tech Current Affairs 2021-22

BIOLOGY AND BIOTECHNOLOGY

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Nutraceuticals

News: Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP) Kendras have added nutraceuticals products including protein powder and bar, malt-based food supplements, and immunity bar for its customers.

About Nutraceuticals: The term “nutraceutical” combines two words – “nutrient” (a nourishing food component) and “pharmaceutical” (a medical drug).

It is a broad umbrella term that is used to describe any product derived from food sources with extra health benefits in addition to the basic nutritional value found in foods.

They can be considered non-specific biological therapies used to promote general well-being, control symptoms, and prevent malignant processes.

Examples: It includes everyday products such as “bio” yogurts and fortified breakfast cereals, as well as vitamins, herbal remedies, and even genetically modified foods and supplements.


Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

News: Legendary singer-composer Bappi Lahiri died due to obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).

About Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA): Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is a disorder in which a person’s breathing stops and starts repeatedly in their sleep.

This occurs when muscles in the throat and upper airway relax intermittently during sleep and block the airway.

Symptoms: The most common symptoms of OSA are snoring, gasping for breath, abruptly waking up gasping or choking, having a dry mouth or sore throat, inability to concentrate during the daytime among others.

Complications: It can be life-threatening if left untreated. It can trigger chronic illnesses like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease among others.


Fairbank’s disease and Acromegaly Disorder

News: Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare has informed the Rajya Sabha that Fairbanks Disease and Acromegaly Disorder’s patients are getting treatment at various tertiary health facilities like Medical Colleges, Central Institutes like AIIMS at free or subsidized rates.

About Fairbank Disease: Fairbanks disease or multiple epiphyseal dysplasias (MED) is a rare genetic disorder (dominant form–1 in 10,000 births) that affects the growing ends of bones.

Bones usually elongate by a process that involves the depositing of cartilage at the ends of the bones called ossification. This cartilage then mineralizes and hardens to become bone. In MED, this process is defective.

The majority of MED individuals are diagnosed during childhood; however, some mild cases may not be diagnosed until adulthood.

Fairbank’s disease patients usually require management of pain and orthopedic procedures, for which facilities are available at tertiary care institutions in India.

About Acromegaly Disorder: Acromegaly is a hormonal disorder that develops when the pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone in the body.

In childhood, this leads to increased height and is called gigantism. But in adulthood, a change in height doesn’t occur. Instead, the increase in bone size is limited to the bones of the hands, feet, and face and is called acromegaly.

This disorder is not inherited from a person’s parents.

Symptoms: Enlargement of the face, hands, and feet, joint pain, thicker skin, deepening of the voice, headaches, and problems with vision.


Detecting SARS-CoV-2 by fluorescence readout

News: A team of Indian scientists has developed a new technology platform for fluorometric detection of pathogens such as viruses by measurement of fluorescent light emitted.

Need of technology: This unprecedented transmission rate of RNA virus has necessitated rapid and accurate diagnosis to facilitate contact tracing (prevent spreading) and to provide timely treatment.

RT-q-PCR (Quantitative reverse transcription PCR) test has been the gold standard for accurate detection of SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19). However, this test is not very reliable and takes a longer time to give results.

About the platform: Indian Scientists have developed a Noncanonical nucleic acid-based G-quadruplex (GQ) topology targeted-reliable conformational polymorphism (GQ-RCP) platform to diagnose Covid-19 clinical samples.

This platform detects viruses by measuring the fluorescent light that is emitted.

This platform can also be used to detect other DNA/RNA pathogens such as HIV, influenza, HCV, Zika, Ebola, bacteria, and other mutating pathogens.


mWRAPR – first indigenous bio-sample collection kit

News: Azooka Labs, a startup at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) has launched mWRAPR.

About mWRAPR: It is India’s first indigenous bio-sample collection kit.

Application: It can be used as a biosample collection kit and storage medium for samples destined for genomic sequencing labs, biobanks, and research labs handling biological samples for molecular analysis.

The kit helps to preserve genetic content in all types of biological samples including microbiomes, saliva, cells, tissues, blood, body fluids, and fecal tubes.

Significance of this development: It is the only Molecular Transport Medium to be manufactured in India that competes with other notable foreign bio-sample collection kits.


HIV treatment and umbilical cord blood

News: A US patient has become the third person in the world, and the first woman, to be cured of HIV, the deadly virus that causes AIDS. As part of her cancer treatment, she received a transplant of umbilical cord blood from someone who had a natural resistance to HIV.

Note: The earlier two patients who were cured of HIV received transplants from donors who have an uncommon gene that gives them protection against HIV.

HIV: Human immunodeficiency virus or HIV is an infection that attacks the immune system by destroying the body’s immune cells called CD4, which help it respond to infection.

Once HIV attacks the CD4 cells, it starts replicating and destroying the cells, weakening the body’s immune system and making it more prone to certain “opportunistic infections” that take advantage of the weak immune system.

How is HIV transmitted? Bodily fluids such as blood, semen, rectal fluids, and breastmilk can be carriers for HIV.

It can also be transmitted through unprotected sex, transfusion of contaminated blood, sharing needles and syringes, and from a mother with HIV to her infant during pregnancy.

Why is this news significant?

First, this was the first time an umbilical cord blood transplant was successfully carried out on an HIV patient. Doctors have indicated that this approach is likely to make treatment more widely available.

Second, the patient was a middle-aged mixed-race woman. This is significant since the majority of donors in the US are of Caucasian descent. Since this breakthrough treatment only requires partial matches and not exact matches, it opens up treatment options for people from diverse racial backgrounds.


Lactobacillus Plantarum JBC5

News: A team of Indian Scientists has recently identified the next-generation probiotic bacterium named Lactobacillus Plantarum JBC5 from a dairy product that showed great promise in promoting healthy ageing.

About Lactobacillus Plantarum JBC5: It is a next-generation probiotic bacterium developed from a dairy product.

This probiotic bacterium was found to improve longevity and healthy ageing by modulating antioxidative, innate immunity, and serotonin-signaling pathway.

A Yogurt was also developed using this probiotic bacterium.

This development is expected to help promote healthy ageing in the elderly population & improve longevity.

Probiotics are live microorganisms promoted with claims that they provide health benefits when consumed, generally by improving or restoring the gut flora.


Benzo[b]thiophene

News: A Women Scientist from IIT Madras has been granted a patent for developing a green methodology for producing a compound called Benzo[b]thiophene.

About Benzo[b]thiophene: Benzo[b]thiophene is a medical compound present in a range of medicines such as raloxifene (used in osteoporosis), zileuton (used in asthma), and sertaconazole (antifungal medication).

Present production methodology: Currently, available synthesis methods of the compound are not environmentally friendly. It requires very high temperatures, causes Sulphur emission with an unpleasant smell, and uses expensive starting materials, and so on.

Apart from this, the reactions are carried out in closed vessels, exposing the process to the risk of explosion and the use of OLED lights required in the reaction increased the cost of the process.

New green methodology by IIT scientist: This method involves using water medium, room temperature. It is odorless and carried out in the open air. This reduces the risk of explosion, decreases the cost of the process by using free inexpensive commercially available starting materials and catalysts & obviates toxic steps involved in the current method.


Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD)

News: World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day was observed to raise awareness for neglected tropical diseases.

About NTDs: NTDs are caused mostly by a variety of pathogens including viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi, protozoa, and toxins. They are “neglected” because they are almost absent from the global health agenda of the developed countries and are associated with stigma and social exclusion.

NTDs affect more than a billion people globally. However, the diseases are preventable and treatable.

Some examples of NTDs include snakebite envenomation, scabies, yaws, trachoma, Leishmaniasis, and Chagas disease.

About London Declaration on NTDs

It was a collaborative disease eradication program. It launched on 30 January 2012 in London.

Based on: World Health Organization 2020 roadmap to eradicate or prevent transmission of neglected tropical diseases.

Aim: To eliminate or control 10 neglected diseases by 2020 by providing more than US$785 million to support research and development.

Status: Great progress has been made since 2012, but not all the goals have been met by 2020.

WHO’s New Roadmap for NTDs for 2021-30

The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a new road map to

  1. Prevent, control, eliminate and eradicate a set of 20 diseases termed neglected tropical diseases by 2030.
  2. Reducing the number of people in need of NTD treatment by 90%.
  3. Elimination of at least one NTD in more than 100 countries.
  4. Complete elimination of dracunculiasis (guinea worm) and yaws

Strategy: The roadmap calls for three strategic changes in approach to end NTDs:

  1. From measuring process to measuring impact.
  2. From disease-specific planning and programming to collaborative work across sectors.
  3. From externally driven agendas on programs that are country-owned and country-financed.

About World Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Day

Declared by: The 74th World Health Assembly has declared January 30 as ‘World Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Day.

Aim: To serve as a catalyst to translate awareness into action, secure increased resources for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and crucially facilitate political leadership and ownership of NTD programs from affected countries.

Theme: ‘Achieving health equity to end the neglect of poverty-related diseases.

In India, NTD Day was organized by the National Center for Vector-Borne Diseases Control (NCVBDC) by illuminating the iconic New Delhi Railway Station to generate awareness about NTDs.


Lassa Fever

News: One of the three persons diagnosed with Lassa fever in the UK has died. The cases have been linked to travel to West African countries.

About Lassa fever: Lassa fever-causing virus is found in West Africa. It was first discovered in 1969 in Lassa, Nigeria. The Lassa virus is named after a town in Nigeria where the first cases were discovered.

Transmission: The virus spreads by rats.

Human Transmission can be caused by:

  • Contact with household items or food that is contaminated with the urine or feces of an infected rat.
  • Contact with a sick person’s infected bodily fluids or through mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Person-to-person transmission in healthcare settings.

Symptoms: Symptoms typically appear 1-3 weeks after exposure. Mild symptoms include slight fever, fatigue, weakness, headache, and more serious symptoms include bleeding, difficulty breathing, vomiting, facial swelling, pain in the chest, back, abdomen, and shock.

Deaths: The death rate associated with this disease is low, at around 1%. But the death rate is higher for certain individuals such as pregnant women among others.

Treatment: The antiviral drug ribavirin seems to be an effective treatment for Lassa fever if given early on in the course of clinical illness.


Synthetic biology

News: A draft foresight paper on synthetic biology released by the Department of Biotechnology. It has stressed the need for a national policy that can consolidate India’s stand on the issue. The paper has been developed through a consultative process with experts from various organizations, non-profit organizations, and industry experts.

About synthetic biology: Synthetic biology refers to the science of using genetic sequencing, editing, and modification to create unnatural organisms or organic molecules that can function in living systems.

Applications of Synthetic biology

Synthetic biology enables scientists to design and synthesize new sequences of DNA from scratch.

It has applications in various fields. For instance, It can help in a) Developing synthetic organisms for vaccination, b) Creating natural products in a lab such as vanillin, extracted from vanilla seeds, can be grown in yeasts with additional plant genomes, c) Use of gene editing systems such as CRISPR will allow defective genes in animals, plants and even people to be silenced, changed.

Pharmaceutical industry: Synthetic biology can be used to make natural compounds such as artemisinin.It is used for the treatment of malaria and Car T cell therapy for cancer treatment.

In the fashion industry: Some companies are exploring the possibility of dyeing jeans without producing hazardous waste using synthetic biology.

In Agriculture: Companies using synthetic biology to deliver fixed nitrogen to plants instead of using fertilisers, engineering microbes to create food additives or brew proteins.


NeoCoV

News: Researchers from China have been warning about a new strain of coronavirus that could be even deadlier than Covid-19. This new strain is called ‘Neo-Cov’.

About NeoCoV: It is a bat coronavirus that was first identified in 2011. It was identified in South Africa in a species of bats known as Neoromicia, which is where the name NeoCoV was derived from.

Significance of NeoCoV

Neo-Cov is not a new Covid-19 variant. It belongs to a distinctly different genera (a type of subclassification) of coronaviruses known as merbecovirus.

In 2014, it was found that NeoCoV shares an 85% similarity to the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in the genome sequence, making it the closest known relative of MERS-CoV.

Note: MERS-CoV was first identified in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. It is a zoonotic virus which means it can transmit between animals and people. Dromedary camels were the major host of the virus at that time.

Infection: So far, the virus has only been found to infect bats. So, in its current form, it does not infect humans yet and has thus not caused any deaths.

Transmission and Fatality: NeoCoV virus also has an extremely high transmission and fatality rate, as it can cause death in at least one out of three infected people.

Cause of Concern: 1) NeoCov is just one mutation away from being able to penetrate the human immune system, 2) NeoCov could not be cross-neutralized by antibodies targeting SARS-CoV-2 or MERS-CoV.


Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)

News: According to a study published in The Lancet, Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a major health threat both for the world and for India. The study calculated the disease burden on the basis of two criteria: Deaths directly attributable to AMR and Deaths associated with AMR.

About antimicrobial resistance (AMR): It occurs when microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites) evolve and stop responding to medicines, making even minor infections tough to treat, causing severe illnesses and deaths.

Reasons: Poor prescription practices, inappropriate antibiotics in pharmacies, and self-medication practices are key determinants of AMR in India.

Key findings of the Study

Deaths directly attributable to AMR

  1. AMR was directly attributable to the death of around 1.27 million people in 2019. AMR played a key associated role in the 4.95 million deaths in 2019.
  2. E.coli and MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) were among the drug-resistant bacteria that led to most deaths.

Types of AMR

Natural (intrinsic, structural) resistance: This kind of resistance is caused by the structural characteristics of microbes and is not associated with the use of antimicrobials. It has no hereditary property.

Acquired resistance: Due to changes in the genetic characteristics of microbes, acquired resistance occurs as it is now unaffected by the previous antimicrobial.

This kind of resistance occurs mainly due to structures of chromosomes or extrachromosomal such as plasmid, transposon, and others.

Cross-resistance: Some microorganisms are resistant to a certain drug that acts with a similar mechanism as some other drugs. However, sometimes it can also be seen in completely unrelated drug groups.

This resistance is usually observed against antibiotics whose structures are similar. This may be the chromosomal or extrachromosomal origin.

Multi-drug resistance and pan-resistance: These are often bacteria resistant to the antibiotics used to treat them. This means that a particular drug is no longer able to kill or control the bacteria.


Superbugs

News: According to a study published in The Lancet, Superbugs kill around 1.27 million people globally every year.

About Superbugs: Superbugs are pathogens that are resistant to multiple antimicrobial drugs, thus making it harder to treat.

Patients infected with any of these bugs often have to be treated with last-line drugs, which are both expensive and toxic. And many of them succumb.

How are superbugs developed?

Like any living organism, bacteria can mutate as they multiply. Also like any living organism, bacteria have a strong evolutionary drive to survive. So, over time, a select few will mutate in particular ways that make them resistant to antibiotics. Then, when antibiotics are introduced, only the bacteria that can resist that treatment can survive to multiply further, proliferating the line of drug-resistant bugs.

Cause of worry: Basically, superbugs are becoming more powerful and widespread than ever. Medical experts are afraid that humans are just one step away from deadly, untreatable infections since the MCR-1 E.coli is resistant to that last-resort antibiotic Colistin.


Xenotransplantation

News: Recently, genetically modified pig’s heart was successfully transplanted into a 57-year-old man dying of heart failure in a New York hospital. This is the first successful transplant of a pig’s heart into a human being.

About the recent Xenotransplantation Operation: The earlier attempts of animal-to-human heart transplants have failed, largely because patients’ bodies rapidly rejected the animal organs. The most notable example was that of American infant Baby Fae, a dying infant in 1984 who lived 21 days with a baboon heart.

This time, the surgeons used a heart from a pig that had undergone gene editing to remove sugar in its cells that’s responsible for the hyper-fast rejection of organs.

About xenotransplantation

Xenotransplantation involves the transplantation, implantation, or infusion of non-human tissues or organs into human recipients.

About the potential advantages of Pigs in Xenotransplantation

  1. Pig organs have similarities to human organs in respect of anatomy and physiology. For instance, physiologically, cardiac output and stroke volume, which are major indicators of cardiac function, have been reported to be comparable in pigs and humans,
  2. Pigs could provide an unlimited supply of organs, tissues, and cells, e.g., it is easy to raise and achieve adult human organ size in six months from pigs.
  3. Pigs are easy to breed and have large litters,
  4. From a scientific viewpoint, pigs are genetically modifiable to reduce the chances of rejection by the human body,
  5. When bred and housed under ‘clean’ conditions, pigs could provide exogenous infection-free organs, tissues, and cells, For instance, there are now companies breeding genetically modified pigs. One such U.S.-based company, Revivicor supplied the pig heart for the New York transplant,
  6. Pigs are produced for food, so using them for organs raises fewer ethical concerns.

Synapses

News: Researchers at the National Centre of Biological Sciences, Bengaluru, have studied Zebrafish to understand how Synapses are formed.

What are Synapses: Neurons, or nerve cells in the brain are connected by means of junctions known as synapses through which they also transmit signals.

Types of Synapses

Chemical Synapses: In this, there is a space of about 20 nanometres between two neurons and the way they communicate is this: One neuron converts the electrical signal into chemical signals and this chemical is released into the synaptic space and the receiving neuron converts the chemical signal back into an electrical signal.

Electrical Synapse: In this, the two neurons have a physical connection and the conversion of electrical to chemical need not occur, and they communicate directly. Electrical synapses are like a physical wire, communication is faster, but they are also fewer in number.

What was the study conducted by Researchers?

It is known that electrical synapses are formed before chemical synapses. Electrical synapses are like a blueprint in which neurons make a handshake. This results in the making of chemical synapses.

To study this, researchers have chosen Zebrafish as a model organism to study this process.(Zebrafish are transparent, and neuron development in larval zebrafish can be observed from day to day by injecting a dye or by engineering the fish to express fluorescent proteins).


Environmental DNA (e-DNA)

News: Researchers have found that environmental DNA (e-DNA) can boost biodiversity conservation efforts across the world.

About Environmental DNA (e-DNA): Environmental DNA or eDNA is DNA that is collected from aquatic or terrestrial environments such as soil, seawater, snow or air rather than collecting directly from an individual organism.

Examples; sources of eDNA include faeces, mucus, gametes, shed skin, carcasses, and hair.

Findings of the study: Airborne DNA (Sampling the air around animals) can yield valuable genetic material that can identify ecological interaction between different species, besides recognizing the animals.

Significance: Airborne e-DNA could help understand the composition of animal communities and detect the spread of non-native species. It can also aid in tracking long-distance migratory birds and other birds’ flying patterns.


Mud Crab Reovirus (MCRV)

News: Mud Crab Reovirus (MCRV) has been found to be the reason for the mass mortality of wild crab in Andhra Pradesh State.

About Mud Crab Reovirus (MCRV): Mud Crab Reovirus (MCRV) is also known as Sleeping Disease. The virus belongs to the “Reoviridae” family. The virus mainly infects connective tissue cells of the hepatopancreas, gills and intestine in mud crabs.

Note: Reoviridae is a family of double-stranded RNA viruses. This virus has a wide host range including vertebrates, invertebrates, plants, protists, and fungi.

About Mud Crab: Scylla Serrata commonly known as the Mud crab, Green crab, or Mangrove Crab, is an economically important species of crab found in the estuaries and mangroves of India.

There has been a huge interest in the aquaculture of this species due to their high demand/ price, high flesh content and rapid growth rates in captivity.

In India, crab culture is developing very fast in the states of AP, Kerala, West Bengal, and Odisha.


Covovax Vaccine and Corbevax vaccine

News: India has approved two more Covid-19 vaccines, Corbevax and Covovax under emergency use authorization. It has also approved an antiviral drug, Molnupiravir to fight against COVID-19.

About Covovax Vaccine: Covavax is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) and has been developed by US-based Novavax.

How does it work? It is a protein subunit vaccine that uses Recombinant Nanoparticle Technology (RNT). In this, harmless copies of the spike protein are grown in insect cells; the protein is then extracted and assembled into virus-like nanoparticles.

Novavax has also used an immune-boosting compound (adjuvant). The same technology is used in HPV and the Hepatitis B vaccine.

Corbevax vaccine: Corbevax is India’s first indigenously developed Receptor Binding Domain (RBD) protein subunit vaccine.

Manufactured by: It is manufactured by Hyderabad-based Biological E.

About Protein Sub-unit Vaccine and what are its drawbacks

Protein subunit vaccines are made by isolating a piece of the actual virus. As fragments are used, there is no danger that these will multiply within the body. These pieces are expected to trigger an immune response that will hopefully prevent future infection.

A downside to subunits is that because they contain only a part of the virus, they may miss certain characteristic signatures of the virus and the immune system may fail to recognize them. This problem is overcome by using adjuvant or booster shots.

Another weakness is that these vaccines don’t infect the cells (like inactivated DNA or mRNA vaccines) and therefore don’t elicit the long-lasting immunity conferred by cells (or the T-cell response).

About Receptor Binding Domain (RBD): A receptor-binding domain (RBD) is a key part of a virus, located on its ‘spike’ domain that allows it to dock to body receptors to gain entry into cells and lead to infection. These are also the primary targets in the prevention and treatment of viral infections, including the virus that causes COVID-19.


Ambergris

News: The Crime Branch of Pune police has arrested two persons and seized 550 grams of ambergris, also known as ‘floating gold’.

About Ambergris

Ambergris is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull grey or blackish color. It is produced in the digestive system of sperm whales.

German physician Franz Schwediawer in 1783 called it “preternaturally hardened whale dung”. This excretion is so valuable it is referred to as floating gold.

However, Ambergris is produced only by an estimated 1% of sperm whales.

Formation: It is incorrectly referred to as whale vomit. This is because one of the theories about its formation suggests that it is produced in the gastrointestinal tract of some of the sperm whales for the passage of hard, sharp objects that are ingested when the whale eats large quantities of marine animals.

Uses: Ambergris is used to produce perfumes that have notes of musk. There are also records of it being used to flavor food, alcoholic beverages, and tobacco in some cultures in the past. Ancient Egyptians used it as incense. It is also believed to be used in some traditional medicines.

Protection to sperm whales

There is a ban on possession and trade of ambergris in countries like the USA, Australia and India. In several other countries, it is a tradable commodity but with limitations.

In the Indian context, sperm whales are a protected species under Schedule 2 of the Wildlife Protection Act, and possession or trade of its by-products, including Ambergris and its byproducts, is illegal under provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.


Neurocysticercosis

News: According to a study, Neurocysticercosis (NCC) was one of the leading causes of seizures in developing countries, particularly in areas without proper sanitation and where pig-rearing was widespread.

About Neurocysticercosis(NCC) : Neurocysticercosis(NCC) is a zoonotic disease. It is a neurologic infection caused when a human consumes meat from — or is indirectly in contact with — a pig infected with tapeworm.

The eggs of the tapeworm invade the muscles of the human body to make cysts. Sometimes these cysts get into people’s brains, triggering epileptic seizures, headaches, difficulty with balance, and excess fluid around the brain.

Transmission: Those with NCC cannot spread the disease to other people. But people with taeniasis (tapeworm infection in the intestine) may spread tapeworm eggs to other people if they do not practice good hygiene (e.g. handwashing after they use the toilet).


Canine Parvovirus

News: Nearly 2,000 pets and stray dogs in Amravati city have been affected by the canine parvovirus virus.

About the Canine Parvovirus: Canine Parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease that can be life-threatening in puppies and dogs. The virus impacts dogs’ gastrointestinal tracts and has a 90% mortality rate.

Symptoms: Bloody diarrhea, vomiting, drastic weight loss, dehydration, and lethargy are some of its symptoms.

Transmission among Dogs: The virus spreads through direct contact with an infected dog or by indirect contact with a contaminated object, including the hands and clothing of people who handle infected dogs.

Treatment: Parvovirus has no cure and vaccinating a puppy or a dog gives them a fighting chance against the infection.


Pollens

News: Scientists have found that air pollutants influence pollen concentration, and different types of pollen have a unique response to weather conditions.

What is Pollen, and why it’s harmful? Pollen is a fine yellowish powder that is transported from plant to plant by the wind, by birds, by insects, or by other animals. The transportation of these pollens helps in the fertilization of plants.

At times these remain suspended in the air and form part of the air we breathe. When inhaled by humans, they put a strain on the upper respiratory system.

They cause widespread upper respiratory tract and naso-bronchial allergy with manifestations like asthma, seasonal rhinitis, and bronchial irritation.

What are the findings of the study?

Each pollen type studied had a unique response to weather conditions and air pollutants. The majority of pollen types were reported in the spring and autumn flowering period.

Distinct peaks of airborne pollen were observed during favorable weather conditions like moderate temperature, low humidity, and low precipitation.

Moderate temperature plays a significant role in flowering, inflorescence, maturation, pollen release and dispersal.

In contrast, pollen grains were eliminated from the atmosphere during precipitation and high relative humidity.

Significance

It would help in formulating suitable mitigation policies and minimizing the burden of pollinosis in the Indo-Gangetic Plain region. This region has been identified as a hotspot of air pollution, specifically during October and November months.


UV-C Disinfection Technology

News: The Union Minister has said that UV-C Disinfection technology is being installed to combat pandemics in railway coaches, AC buses, closed spaces, etc.

About Ultraviolet (UV) Light

Ultraviolet (UV) is a type of light or radiation naturally emitted by the Sun. It covers a wavelength range of 100-400 nm. The human visible light ranges from 380 to 700 nm.

Types of UV light: There are three types of UV radiation that are classified according to their wavelength:

UV-A and UV-B rays from the Sun are transmitted through our atmosphere, and all UV-C is filtered by the ozone layer.

UV-A (315-400 nm): It has a long wavelength, which accounts for approximately 95% of the UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. It can penetrate the middle layer of your skin or the dermis and can cause aging of skin cells and indirect damage to cells’ DNA.

UV-B (280-315 nm): It has a medium wavelength. It is biologically active but cannot penetrate beyond the outer skin layers. It can cause sunburn and is also associated with skin cancer.

UV-C (100-280 nm): It has a short wavelength and is most harmful. However, it is completely filtered by the ozone layer and does not reach the Earth’s surface. But the UV-C radiation from man-made sources has been known to cause skin burns and eye injuries.

About UV-C Disinfection Technology

UV-C Disinfection Technology has been developed by the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR).

Purpose: The technology is meant for the mitigation of airborne transmission of Covid-19.

Working: UV-C deactivates viruses, bacteria, fungus, and other bioaerosols, etc. with appropriate dosages using 254 nm UV light.

Applications: The disinfection system can be used in auditoriums, large conference rooms, classrooms, malls, etc. which provides a relatively safer environment for indoor activities in the current pandemic. It can also be used in buildings, transport vehicles, etc.

Moreover, this technology can also be used by the Election Commission of India during indoor meetings with limited capacity for the upcoming Assembly polls in 5 States in the wake of a ban on physical rallies and roadshows for a specified period of time.


Norovirus

News: Kerala has been put on alert after a few cases of norovirus have been recorded in the Wayanad district.

About the Norovirus

Norovirus is an animal-borne disease. It causes gastrointestinal illness including inflammation of the lining of the stomach and intestines, severe vomiting, and diarrhea.

Norovirus is resistant to many disinfectants and can heat up to 60°C. Therefore, merely steaming food or chlorinating water does not kill the virus. The virus can also survive many common hand sanitizers.

Transmission: Norovirus is easily transmitted through close contact with people who have been infected, or by touching contaminated surfaces. It can also be spread by eating food that has been prepared or handled by someone with a stomach bug.

Impact: Norovirus does not significantly affect healthy people, but it can be serious in young children, the elderly, and people with comorbidities.

Treatment: No specific treatment for the infection. Recovery generally depends on the health of the immune system. In most people, the illness usually resolves within a few days.


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

News: A group of Indian researchers has developed a compound called “6BIO” that can provide a better method to treat Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The compound has the potential for improving daily activities like learning and recollecting new tasks in patients with ASD/ Intellectual disability (ID).

About Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

It is a condition related to brain development that impacts how a person perceives and socialises with others, causing problems in social interaction and communication.

People with autism also often have co-occurring conditions, including epilepsy, depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is estimated that worldwide about one in 160 children has an ASD.

Causes: There are many factors that make a child more likely to have an ASD, including environmental and genetic factors.

Symptoms: Early signs of this disorder can be noticed before a child reaches one year of age. However, symptoms typically become more consistently visible by the time a child is 2 or 3 years old.

Current treatment: Current therapeutics to treat ASD aim to alleviate symptoms such as epileptic seizures or sleep issues but not to treat the multiple problems of ASD.

Note: The Right of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 has increased the types of disabilities from 7 to 21. It has added autism spectrum disorder as one of the disabilities which were largely ignored in earlier acts.

Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) 2021–2025

News: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has released of the Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance 2021-2025. It is the continuation of the first FAO Action Plan, which covered the period 2016-2020.

Key Objectives of the plan

The five key objectives of the plan are:

  • Increasing stakeholder awareness and engagement
  • Strengthening surveillance and research
  • Enabling good practices
  • Promoting responsible use of antimicrobials
  • Strengthening governance and allocating resources sustainably

Key Features of the plan

Firstly, it takes a ‘One Health’ approach and outlines several possible improvements in agricultural practices to better control Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). This includes providing good nutrition for people and animals, vaccination, hygiene, sanitation and genetics, etc.

Secondly, it calls for more AMR-related research and surveillance in the crop, aquaculture and environmental sectors. This is because antimicrobials discharged by humans and animals can enter the environment and accelerate the emergence as well as the spread of resistant strains and genes.


Bio-jet Fuel Technology

News: The Indian Bio-jet fuel has been formally approved for use on military aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF).

This approval will enable Indian armed forces to use bio-jet fuel produced using indigenous technology across all its operational aircraft.

About Indian Bio-jet Fuel Technology

Developed by: The Indian Institute of Petroleum (CSIR-IIP), a constituent laboratory of the CSIR.

Sources of Production: Bio-jet fuel can be produced from used cooking oil, tree-borne oils, short gestation oilseed crops grown off-season by farmers and waste extracts from edible oil processing units.

The Bio jet fuel was also used on a civil, commercial demonstration flight operated by SpiceJet in 2018 from Dehradun to Delhi.

Benefits of Bio-jet fuel technology

Firstly, it will reduce air pollution by virtue of its ultra-low sulphur content compared with conventional jet fuel and contribute to India’s Net-Zero greenhouse gas emissions targets.

Secondly, it will also enhance the livelihoods of farmers and tribals engaged in producing, collecting, and extracting non-edible oils.


Anti-Bacterial Fabric

News: The Union Minister for Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) has launched the unique anti-bacterial fabric.

About Anti-Bacterial Fabric

It has been developed by Kumarappa National Handmade Paper Institute, Jaipur under Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC).

The fabric is treated with an anti-bacterial agent extracted from cow dung which prevents bacterial growth in the fabric.

Benefits: This innovative fabric could be of great use in hospitals and other medical facilities. It will also help create rural employment and contribute to environmental protection.

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Science and tech current affairs 2021-22

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