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UPSC Daily Current Affairs : 17-April-2020

Topic Covered :

  1. Coronavirus: Govt lab claims to have identified ‘novel mutations’

  2. Novel test may quickly, accurately detect novel coronavirus: Study

  3. Delhi to begin clinical trials of ‘plasma therapy’ for coronavirus soon: Arvind Kejriwal 

  4. Chitra GeneLAMP-N makes confirmatory tests results of COVID 19 possible in 2 hours

  5. CeNS develops portable sensor to ease heavy metal detection in water.

  6. India to launch training programmes for SAARC healthcare professionals to fight COVID-19 

  7. Workforce guideline lands tea gardens in trouble 


Why in news?

  • Claiming a breakthrough in studying the mysterious ways in which Covid-19 works, scientists at the government-run Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre have identified three "novel mutations" in the virus that they say could become building blocks in the quest for a universal cure. 


  • Dr CG Joshi, director of the Gandhinagar-based institute, said on Thursday that genome sequencing of a Covid-19 sample taken from a patient in Gujarat revealed nine mutations, of which six had been reported in various countries hit by the pandemic. 

  • Three mutations are unique to our sequencing. This indicates that the virus is mutating fast.

  • The institute plans to collect about 100 more samples from across the state to arrive at a comprehensive set of findings.

  • Hareet Shukla, secretary of science and technology, said the results of genome sequencing would be crucial to deciding a "drug strategy" for the viral infection as well as developing a vaccine for it. 

Source : Times of India ( )


Why in news?

  • Scientists have developed a new test that may detect the novel coronavirus more accurately and quickly, and relieve the pressure on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) based tests currently used in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic. 


  • Millions of people have been tested for the novel coronavirus, most using a kit that relies on the PCR, a sensitive method that amplifies SARS-CoV-2 RNA from patient swabs so that tiny amounts of the virus can be detected.

  • Researchers including those from the Institute of Environmental Engineering, ETH Zurich in Switzerland, have developed a potentially more accurate diagnostic based on plasmonic photothermal sensing. 

  • The method can detect interactions between molecules on the surface of a constructed metallic nanostructure as a local change in refractive index. 

  • The team made DNA probes that recognised specific SARS-CoV-2 RNA sequences and attached them to gold nanoparticles. 

  • When they added pieces of the viral genome, the RNA attached to the complementary probes like a zipper being closed. 

  • The team used a laser to heat up the nanoparticles, making it more difficult for imperfectly matched sequences to remain attached, reducing false-positives. 

  • For example, a nucleic acid "zipper" missing a couple of teeth -- indicating a partial mismatch -- would unzip under these conditions.  In this way, the researchers could discriminate between SARS-CoV-2 and its close relative, SARS-CoV-1. 

  • Although the test still needs to be tested on intact viral RNA from patient samples, it could help relieve the current pressure on PCR-based tests, they said.

Source : Times of India ( )


Why in news?

  • Delhi government has got the Centre’s permission to conduct clinical trials of ‘plasma therapy’ to help critically ill coronavirus patients, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Thursday.


  • Plasma therapy is meant for only those coronavirus patients who are on ventilator support and are critical.

  • Through the Plasma Therapy, transfusion of plasma from a convalescent coronavirus patient to a critical patient is done. As the blood of a convalescent patient is rich in antibodies it is expected to help in the recovery of the critical patient.

  • In this therapy, the donor has to be a patient who has recovered, showed multiple negative testing and showed no symptoms after 14 days of isolation.

  • The Indian Council of Medical Research has asked institutions from across the country to participate in the clinical trials to assess the plasma treatment using protocols.

  • However, the trials needed permission from the Drug Control authority since conducting it involves relaxation in blood donation norms.

Source : The Statesman ( )


Why in news?

  • Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, Trivandrum, an Institute of National Importance, of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), has developed a diagnostic test kit that can confirm COVID19 in 2 hours at low cost. 


  • The confirmatory diagnostic test, which detects the N Gene of SARS- COV2 using reverse transcriptase loop-mediated amplification of viral nucleic acid (RT-LAMP), will be one of the world’s first few if not the first of its kinds in the world. 

  • The test kit, funded by the DST called Chitra GeneLAMP-N, is highly specific for SARS-CoV-2 N-gene and can detect two regions of the gene, which will ensure that the test does not fail even if one region of the viral gene undergoes mutation during its current spread. 

  • The tests performed at NIV Alappuzha (authorized by ICMR) show that Chitra GeneLAMP- N has 100% accuracy and match with test results using RT-PCR. This has been intimated to ICMR, the authority to approve it, for COVID-19 testing in India, following which License needs to be obtained from CDSCO for manufacture.

  • Current PCR kits in India enable detection of E gene for screening and RdRp gene for confirmation. Chitra GeneLAMP-N gene testing will allow confirmation in one test without the need for a screening test and at much lower costs. 

  • The detection time is 10 minutes, and the sample to result time (from RNA extraction in swab to RT-LAMP detection time) will be less than 2 hours. A total of 30 samples can be tested in a single batch in a single machine allowing a large number of samples to be tested each day.  

Source : PIB ( )


Why in news?

  • Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences (CeNS) has developed a compact solid-state sensor to detect the heavy metal ions in water. It is a portable device which can help onsite detection in remote areas.


  • Heavy metal ions such as lead, mercury and cadmium pose severe potential threats to living beings as they can easily be accumulated in the body and cannot be detoxified by any chemical or biological processes.

  • The health hazards associated with heavy metal ions in water demands the development of efficient and portable sensors for rapid onsite detection of these ions. There is an urge to develop visual sensors, which can effectively detect heavy metal ions rapidly (within seconds) under ambient conditions. 

  • Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences have developed a compact solid-state sensor to detect the heavy metal ions, e.g., lead ions (Pb2+) down to 0.4 parts per billion (ppb) for efficient onsite detection.

  • The sensor film was prepared by forming a composite between manganese doped zinc sulfide quantum dots and reduced graphene oxide on a glass substrate. These particular quantum dots are water-soluble and have high photoluminescence (~ 30 %) quantum yield, making them suitable for luminescence-based sensing.

  •  These quantum dots can be excited with handheld UV light of 254 nm, thus making it a portable device even to remote areas.

  • If a drop of water containing heavy metal ions such as mercury, lead, cadmium, etc. are added to the composite film, the emission of the film quenches within seconds.

  • This study demonstrates the easy detection of heavy metal ions in water; however, the team is developing strategies to improve the selectivity of the detection.

Source : PIB ( )

India to launch training programmes for SAARC healthcare professionals to fight COVID-19

Why in news?

  • As a follow-up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call upon SAARC nations to jointly combat coronavirus, India announced the launch of two training programmes on the management of the pandemic for healthcare professionals from member-nations of the grouping.


  • The training will be imparted under the External Affairs Ministry’s prestigious Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme.

  • The first five-day programme is to be conducted by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Raipur from 17 April while the second programme will be conducted by the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, New Delhi.

  • While the participation of healthcare professionals from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Maldives in the two-programmes is almost certain, it is to be seen if Pakistan will also join the deliberations, given the fact that the initiative has been taken by India.

  • India has already proposed setting up of a common electronic platform for all SAARC nations to share expertise and best practices to jointly combat the pandemic.

  • India is initiating a series of other measures to help the SAARC countries to contain the pandemic in the region. All the SAARC member nations are currently under the grip of the pandemic that has caused immense hardships for their people and badly hit their economies.

Source : The statesman ( )


Why in news?

  • Planters and tea garden owners in north Bengal are now facing problems as they fail to provide jobs to all permanent workers. 


  • The Centre government has allowed employment of 50% of workforce amid Corona outbreak, but, the state government has allowed only 25% of the workforce to be employed.

  • The garden managements are having a tough time when it comes to selecting the 25 percent workforce that the state government has allowed to be deployed in each garden for plucking and manufacturing tea.

  • This can create law and order issue in the region.

Source : The statesman ( )

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