Current Affairs Oct 17

Climate changes led to the extinction of early human species

  • Climate change is likely to have driven the early human species to extinction.
  • The research combined climate modelling and the fossil record to find clues related to the extinction of different species of early humans including Homo species including
  • habilis, H. ergaster, H. Erectus, H. heidelbergensis, H. neanderthalensis, and H. sapiens.
  • The findings suggest that the inability to adapt to climate change played a major role in their extinction.
  • According to the study, Homo species — erectus, H. heidelbergensis, and H. neanderthalensis lost a major part of their climatic niche just before going extinct.
  • This reduction coincided with sharp, unfavourable changes in the global climate.
  • Though there was some uncertainty in paleoclimatic reconstruction, the identification of fossil remains at the level of species, and the ageing of fossil sites, the main insights “hold true under all assumptions.”


Indias GDP for 2020 may be Lower than Bangladesh

  • India’s Covid-19 economic gloom turned into despair this week, on news that its per capita gross domestic product may be lower for 2020 than in neighboring Bangladesh.
  • It’s shocking that India, which had a lead of 25 per cent five years ago, is now trailing.
  • Ever since it began opening up the economy in the 1990s, India’s dream has been to emulate China’s rapid expansion.
  • After three decades of persevering with that campaign, slipping behind Bangladesh hurts its global image.
  • The West wants a meaningful counterweight to China, but that partnership will be predicated on India not getting stuck in a lower-middle-income trap.
  • If a country with large-power ambitions is beaten in its own backyard by a smaller nation it helped liberate in 1971 by going to war with Pakistan its influence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean could wane.

What went wrong

  • The coronavirus pandemic is definitely to blame.
  • The severe economic lockdown India imposed to stop the spread of the disease is set to wipe out 10.3 per cent of real output, according to the IMF.
  • That’s nearly 2.5 times the loss the global economy is expected to suffer.
  • Fiscal squeamishness, an under capitalised financial system and a multi-year investment funk would all delay India’s post-Covid demand recovery.
  • Worse,even without the pandemic, India might have eventually lost the race to Bangladesh.
  • The reason is nested in a new paper by economist Shoumitro Chatterjee of Pennsylvania State University and Arvind Subramanian, formerly India’s chief economic adviser, titled ‘India’s Export-Led Growth: Exemplar and Exception’.
  • Consider first the exceptionalism of India’s growth.
  • Bangladesh is doing well because its following the path of previous Asian tigers.
  • Its slice of low-skilled goods exports is in line with its share of poor-country working-age population.
  • The Peoples Republic held on to high GDP growth for decades by carving out for itself a far bigger dominance of low-skilled goods manufacturing than warranted by the size of its labor pool.
  • India, however, has gone the other way, choosing not to produce the things that could have absorbed its working-age population of 1 billion into factory jobs.
  • India’s missing production in the key low-skill textiles and clothing sector amounts to $140 billion, which is about 5 per cent of India’s GDP.
  • If half of India;s computer software exports in 2019 ceased to exist, there would be a furore.
  • But that $60 billion loss would have been the same as the foregone exports annually from low-skill production.
  • Policy makers don’t want to acknowledge that the shoes and apparel factories that were never born or were forced to close down could also have earned dollars and created mass employment.
  • They would have provided a pathway for permanent rural-to-urban migration in a way that jobs that require higher levels of education and training never can.
  • Bangladesh has two out of five women of working age in the labour force, double India’s 21 per cent participation rate.

Big danger

  • A bigger danger is that instead of taking corrective action, politicians may double down on past mistakes and seek salvation in autarky.
  • We can erect barriers to imports and make stuff for the domestic economy. Let’s create jobs that way.
  • Suddenly, the 1960s and 70s slogan of self-reliance is making a return in economic policy.

India’s opportunity

  • Trade has worked for the country.
  • Its the composition that’s wrong, because of an unusual comparative advantage defying specialization, the researchers show.
  • India exports a lot of high-skilled manufacturing goods and services, such as computer software.
  • But as the world’s factory, China is now ceding room to others at the lower end of the spectrum.
  • That is where India’s opportunity and the competitive advantage of its cheap and not particularly healthy or well-educated labour really lies.


 India-South Africa proposal for TRIPS waiver during Covid-19

  • India’s joint proposal with South Africa at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for a temporary waiver of certain Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) obligations
  • to ensure smooth supply of medicines and vaccines during the Covid-19 pandemic
  • has gained support from most developing countries while several developed members, including the US, Australia and the EU, opposed it.
  • The TRIPS Council discussed this and suggested that members should consult further on the matter and the TRIPS Council be reconvened as appropriate to discuss it.
  • The TRIPS Council has time till December 31 this year (end of 90-day period after submission of the request for waiver) to adopt its report on the issue and pass it on for possible acceptance at the next Ministerial Conference.
  • The United States, however, requested that this agenda item be suspended for further consultations, arguing that a weakened IP system will not help the situation.
  • India pointed out at the meeting that new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 were being developed across the world, but many countries were worried about making them available to the people fast while avoiding shortages and keeping the medical products affordable.
  • India also noted that there were several reports that highlighted the risk of IPRs acting as a hurdle to the timely supply of affordable medical products to patients.
  • It also drew attention to the fact that some WTO members had actually made legal amendments in their patent laws to fast-track the process of issuing compulsory licenses for essential patented medicines to generic producers.


SpaceX launches its 13th Starlink mission

  • Recently, Elon Musk-founded aerospace company, SpaceX, successfully launched its 13th Starlink mission after aborting the mission four times due to bad weather.
  • Aboard the Falcon 9 rocket, the latest Starlink mission carried 60 satellites that will join over 700 already in the orbit.

What is Starlink?

  • Starlink is a network of satellites that provide internet. Each satellite is compactly designed, weighs about 260kg, and is equipped with four-phased array antennas, single solar array, ion propulsion system, navigation sensors, and debris tracking system.
  • The satellite network operates at 550km above the Earth’s surface in low Earth orbit (LEO), unlike conventional internet satellites that are positioned much higher, at over 35,000km.
  • SpaceX’s first Starlink mission was launched on May 24, 2019, which carried 60 satellites.
  • The company has approval to launch 12,000 Starlink satellites, and it has requested the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to approve launch of another 30,000 satellites.

How does it work?

  • When an internet signal is sent from the Earth, one of the Starlink satellites receives it and then communicates with other satellites in the network.
  • Once signal reaches the most ideally located satellite, it is relayed to a ground receiver.
  • Starlink satellites communicate with each other using laser light, and at any given time, a Starlink satellite is connected to four other satellites in the mega-constellation.
  • The phased array antennas allow satellites to transfer huge amount of data in a short period of time.
  • The in-built navigation sensors provide altitude information to the satellites for precision internet data transfer.
  • As the Starlink satellites orbit in LEO, they are much closer to the ground receivers, which significantly reduces latency during data transfer process.
  • On the down-side, more number of satellites are required to have an extensive coverage, as they are positioned much closer to Earth, and can only cover a limited area.

How will it be useful?

  • The network of LEO satellites will deliver high speed, low latency internet in remote areas where connectivity is limited or completely unavailable, including on aeroplanes and ships.
  • So, people living in areas where traditional internet is inaccessible, will be able to benefit the most from Starlink internet service, depending on its availability.
  • Companies like Amazon, Telesat, and OneWeb are also considering to operate LEO-based internet service.
  • Amazon’s Project Kuiper has been approved by the FCC, with a constellation of 3,236 satellites in the LEO.


 Bio-inspired Materials For Energy & Biotechnology Sector

  • Scientists have developed a synthetic material that mimics the dynamic capability of living organisms to adapt to new environments by utilizing simple natural design principles to create complex networks.
  • The new materials developed opens new avenues for smart materials because of their dynamic and adaptive nature.
  • Hence, they would be useful as recyclable polymers for the energy and biotechnology sector.
  • Reduction–oxidation (redox) processes are central to many biological functions.
  • Cellular functions like growth, motility, and navigations depend on assembling of biopolymers whose dynamic behavior is linked to a reduction-oxidation (redox) reaction in which enzymes are involved.
  • Nature synthesizes these biopolymers controlling their size and dispersity to regulate their functions, without which their sophistication and efficacy are affected.
  • Researchers have been trying to mimic such complex structural control based on chemical reaction networks.
  • Scientists from the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Science and Research (JNCASR) have developed a synthetic mimic of such redox-active biological assemblies, with precise structure and dynamics that can be manipulated.
  • Such bio-inspired structures are formed by assembling transient dormant monomeric molecules (basic units of polymers) by coupling them to a reduction-oxidation reaction network.
  • They form a chemical entity called supramolecular polymers with strikingly dynamic properties.
  • The properties arise because they are connected by non-covalent bonds, which are reversible bonds that hold their chains together.
  • These dynamic properties open up prospects of many new applications of these materials.


Dispose Liquid Nuclear Waste

  • Glass is a non-crystalline, often transparent amorphous solid which is mostly formed by rapid cooling of its molten form.
  • However, under certain conditions, during its formation, molten glass may rebel and transform to a crystal – the more stable state, an avoidable process called devitrification.
  • The process of devitrification remains poorly understood as this process can be extremely slow, and this makes it difficult to study it.
  • Scientists have now visualized devitrification in an experiment, thus taking a step closer to understanding it.
  • This could help avoid devitrification in processes of pharma industries – a sector in which dodging this is of paramount importance.
  • This is because an amorphous drug dissolves faster than after devitrification,and ensuring that it remains amorphous is therefore essential during storage.
  • A team of researchers led by Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize recipient in Physical Sciences (2020) observed glass made of colloidal particles and monitored their dynamics over several days.
  • Using real-time monitoring of the particles with an optical microscope and machine learning methods to determine subtle structural features hidden in the glass,
  • they identified a parameter called ‘softness’, which determines the extent of devitrification.
  • They found that regions in the glass which had particle clusters with large “softness” values were the ones that crystallized and that “softness” was also sensitive to the crystallization route.
  • The authors fed their machine learning model pictures a colloidal glass, and the model accurately predicted the regions that crystallized days in advance.
  • The authors suggest that techniques to tune “softness” by introducing impurities may help realize long-lived glass states, which has numerous technological applications.
  • It can also help in vitrification of liquid nuclear waste as a solid in a glass matrix to safely dispose it deep underground and prevent hazardous materials from leaking into the environment.


Chapter Proceedings

  • The Mumbai police last week began “chapter proceedings” against Republic Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami.

What exactly are “chapter proceedings” that have been initiated against Arnab Goswami?

  • Chapter proceedings are preventive actions taken by the police if they fear that a particular person is likely to create trouble and disrupt the peace in society.
  • These proceedings are unlike punitive action taken in case of an FIR with an intention to punish.
  • Here, the police can issue notices under sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure to ensure that the person is aware that
  • creating nuisance could result in action against him, which includes paying a fine, in the absence of which, he could be put behind bars.

What are the sections using which these notices are served?

  • Generally a notice is issued to a person under section 111 of the CrPC whereby he is asked to present himself before the Executive Magistrate – an ACP-rank officer in a commissionerate of a deputy collector in rural areas – who has issued the notice.

Does a person served with the notice have legal options to appeal against the notice?

  • Yes, on receiving the notice under section 111, a person can appeal the notice before the courts.
  • In 2017, while striking down a notice issued to the owner of a bar, the Bombay High Court said that “chapter proceedings cannot be initiated on the basis of an incident of trivial nature”.
  • There is no need for even an FIR against a person for issuing a notice under section 107 of the CrPC (security of keeping peace in other cases).
  • In this case the bond is signed for one year.
  • Under section 110, a notice is served to a habitual offender who has a record of FIRs registered against him.
  • In his case, he is asked to sign a bond for three years.

Why are such notices called chapter proceedings? Is it a legal term?

  • It is not a legal term.
  • Since all the sections related to preventing of crime fall under a single chapter, it was colloquially called “chapter proceedings” and has since been used to refer to actions of this nature.



Solidarity Trial dampener

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) made available interim results from the Solidarity Therapeutics Trial — a large-scale global trial studying the effectiveness of various repurposed therapies in Covid-19 treatment.
  • The findings put a dampener on expectations from these therapies — including remdesivir, once seen as promising.

What is the Solidarity Trial?

  • The world’s “largest” multinational human trials on Covid-19 therapeutics, it was initiated by WHO and its partners in March to help find an effective treatment for Covid-19.
  • It covers four repurposed drugs or drug combinations — remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir and interferon (in combination with rotinavir and lopinavir).
  • The main aim was to help determine whether any of these repurposed therapies could at least moderately affect in-hospital mortality, and whether any effects differed between moderate and severe disease.

What have the trials found?

  • None of the drugs was able to prove benefits across the parameters studied, especially in reducing mortality among hospitalised patients.
  • Drugs like hyrdoxychloroquine and lopinavir, in fact, had already been dropped over the course of the last six months for not showing much promise.

What now for Covid-19 therapeutics, pending a vaccine?

  • The findings don’t necessarily impact the use of other drugs and assisted therapies that have been proven to help reduce deaths and improve clinical outcomes, including oxygen and steroids like dexamethasone.
  • Newer therapies like antibody cocktails may also be in focus as part of the Solidarity Trial going forward.


Global Hunger Index 2020

  • Ranked India at 94 among 107 countries.
  • India was ranked 102 out of 117 countries in the Global Hunger Index 2019.
  • Published jointly by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe.
  • Aims to measure and track hunger at the global, regional and country levels.
  • GHI scores are based on the values of four component indicators:
  • Undernourishment (share of the population with insufficient caloric intake),
  • Child wasting (share of children under age five who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition),
  • Child stunting (share of children under age five who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition), and
  • Child mortality (mortality rate of children under age five, partly reflecting the fatal mix of inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environments).
  • Based on the values of the four indicators, the GHI determines hunger on a 100-point scale where 0 is the best possible score (no hunger) and 100 is the worst.
  • With a score of 27.2 out of 50, the 2020 Global Hunger Index report terms the level of hunger in India as “serious”.
  • While a score of less than 9.9 signifies “low” hunger,
  • that of 10-19.9 represents “moderate” levels of hunger,
  • 20-34.9 points to “serious” hunger,
  • 35-39.9 signifies “alarming” and
  • over 50 “extremely alarming” levels of hunger.
  • At present, India lags behind Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia among others on the Global Hunger Index.
  • Only 13 out of 107 countries, including Rwanda, Afghanistan, Liberia, and Chad among others have fared worse than India.
  • In the index, India features behind Nepal (73), Pakistan (88), Bangladesh (75), Indonesia (70) among others.
  • Out of the total 107 countries, only 13 countries fare worse than India including countries like Rwanda (97), Nigeria (98), Afghanistan (99), Liberia (102), Mozambique (103), Chad (107) among others.
  • According to the report, 14 per cent of India’s population is undernourished.
  • It also says that the country recorded a child stunting rate of 37.4 per cent.
  • Stunted children are those who have a “low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition”.
  • Africa South of the Sahara and South Asia have the highest hunger and undernutrition levels among world regions.
  • Worldwide hunger is at a moderate
  • 3 countries have alarming levels of hunger – Chad, Timor-Leste, and Madagascar.
  • The world is not on track to achieve the second Sustainable Development Goal – known as Zero Hunger for short – by 2030.
  • At the current pace, approximately 37 countries will fail even to reach low hunger, as defined by the GHI Severity Scale, by 2030.


India needs to improve its sex ratio

  • C Rangarajan (former Chairman, Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council) and J K Satia (Professor Emeritus, Indian Institute of Public Health) argue that
  • there is an urgent need to reach young people both for reproductive health education and services as well as to cultivate gender equity norms.
  • The Sample Registration System (SRS) Statistical Report (2018) estimated the Total Fertility Rate (TFR), the number of children a mother would have at the current pattern of fertility during her lifetime, as 2.2 in the year 2018.
  • Fertility is likely to continue to decline and it is estimated that replacement TFR of 2.1 would soon be, if not already, reached for India as a whole.
  • The population would stabilise or begin to reduce in a few years once replacement fertility is reached.
  • This is not so because of the population momentum effect, a result of more people entering the reproductive age group of 15-49 years due to the past high-level of fertility.
  • UN Population Division has estimated that India’s population would possibly peak at 161 crore around 2061.
  • But the most troubling statistics in the SRS report are for sex ratio at birth.
  • Biologically normal sex ratio at birth is 1,050 males to 1,000 females or 950 females to 1,000 males.
  • The SRS reports show that sex ratio at birth in India, measured as the number of females per 1,000 males, declined marginally from 906 in 2011 to 899 in 2018.
  • There is considerable son preference in all states, except possibly in Kerala and Chhattisgarh.
  • The UNFPA State of World Population 2020 estimated the sex ratio at birth in India as 910, lower than all the countries in the world except China.
  • Increasing female education and economic prosperity help to improve the ratio.
  • There is an urgent need to reach young people both for reproductive health education and services as well as to cultivate gender equity norms.
  • This could reduce the effect of population momentum and accelerate progress towards reaching a more normal sex-ratio at birth. India’s population future depends on it.


 Interfaith Marriages In India

  • The featuring of an interfaith couple in an advertisement aired by the Tata-owned Tanishq led to accusation of it promoting love jihad.
  • Tanishq finally withdrew the advertisement fearing a larger impact on the brands.
  • The Census does not record interfaith marriages in India nor has the government conducted any nationally representative survey to find out about such marriages.

What a 2013 study has revealed about interfaith marriages in India

  • Central Government-run International Institute for Population Sciences had presented a paper on interfaith marriages in India in 2013
  • by analysing data from the “India Human Development Survey (IHDS) data, 2005” to explore the extent of mixed marriages in India.
  • The study suggests that 2.21 per cent of all married women between the age of 15-49 had married outside their religion.
  • The proportion of inter-religious marriages is
  • highest at 2.8 per cent among the women of the young age group (15-19) than other age groups which decrease with increasing age at marriage
  • with 2.3 per cent for those in the age group 20-24,
  • 2 per cent for 25-29 and
  • 9 per cent for those above 30.
  • Interreligious marriages are greater among the women living in urban areas at 2.9 per cent compared to 1.8 per cent for rural areas.

How prevalent is interfaith marriage in various religious groups.

  • The prevalence of women marrying outside their faith is the
  • highest amongst Christians with 3.5 per cent of women having mixed marriages.
  • Sikhs come second at 3.2 per cent,
  • Hindu’s 1.5 per cent and
  • Muslims 0.6 per cent.

Which states show the highest number of mixed marriages.

  • Punjab has the highest mixed marriages at 7.8 per cent.
  • This high number is attributed to the somewhat similar religious customs and practices followed by Sikhism and Hinduism.
  • Jharkhand at 5.7 per cent and Andhra Pradesh at 4.9 per cent also have a high proportion of mixed marriages.
  • The lowest percentage of mixed marriages are in Bengal at 0.3 per cent, Chattisgarh 0.6 per cent and Rajasthan 0.7 per cent.

How do mixed marriages impact society?

  • Sociologists believe mixed marriages, be they inter-religion or inter-race, help in the socio-cultural assimilation of communities and facilitate better integration into society.



International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, 17 October 2020

  • The theme for the Day this year “Acting together to achieve social and environmental justice for all” addresses the challenge of achieving social and environmental justice for all.
  • The growing recognition of the multi-dimensionality of poverty means that these two issues are inseparably intertwined and that social justice cannot be fully realized without aggressively rectifying environmental injustices at the same time.
  • This year marks the 27th anniversary of the declaration by the General Assembly, in its resolution 47/196 of 22 December 1992, of 17 October as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
  • This year also marks the 32nd anniversary of the Call to Action by Father Joseph Wresinski —
  • which inspired the observance of October 17 as the World Day for Overcoming Extreme Poverty — and
  • the recognition by the United Nations of the day as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.


Rules for 26% FDI in digital media

  • More than a year after announcing a 26 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) cap under the government approval route in digital news,
  • the government has said that the CEO of the company would have to be an Indian citizen, and that all foreign employees working for more than 60 days would need security clearance.
  • FDI in print media is capped at 26 per cent, and that in TV news is 49 per cent.
  • The digital news media entities looking for FDI would have to adhere to three conditions,
  • the majority of the directors on the company’s board, and the CEO of the company will have to be Indian citizens and,
  • The entity shall be required to obtain security clearance of all foreign personnel likely to be deployed for more than 60 days in a year by way of appointment, contract or consultancy or in any other capacity for functioning of the entity prior to their deployment.
  • Should the government deny or withdraw security clearance, “the investee entity will ensure that the concerned person resigns or his/her services are terminated forthwith after receiving such directives from the government”.
  • Security conditions for majority of directors and the CEO to be Indian citizens, and security clearance of foreign personnel were applicable to the broadcast content services sector.
  • The decision will be applicable to the following categories of entities registered or located in India:
  • Digital media entities “streaming/uploading news and current affairs on websites, apps or other platforms”;
  • News agency which gathers, writes and distributes/transmits news, directly or indirectly, to digital media entities and/or news aggregators; and
  • News aggregator, being an entity which, using software of web application, aggregates news content from various sources, such as news websites, blogs, podcasts, video blogs, user submitted links, etc in one location”.
  • The government has given a year to digital media news entities to align their shareholding with these requirements.


New group to revive Bodoland statehood stir

  • A new organisation has announced the revival of the Bodoland statehood movement ahead of the elections to the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC).
  • The five-decade-old demand for a separate State for the Bodos, the largest plains tribe in the Northeast,
  • was said to have ended with the signing of the third peace accord on January 27 for transforming the BTC into the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) with additional powers.
  • But the All India Bodo People’s National League for Bodoland Statehood has vowed to rekindle the statehood movement.
  • Members of this league, formed on October 15, panned the BTR accord, which they said would spell disaster for the Bodo community.
  • The accord has a provision for excluding from the BTR villages with more than 50% non-Bodos and including villages with more than 50% Bodo people left out of the BTC map after the 2003 accord.
  • The Bodoland statehood movement has its roots in the 1967 Udayachal stir seeking self-rule for the areas dominated by the Bodo community.
  • A stronger statehood movement was revived in 1987 with the slogan of ‘Divide Assam 50:50’ and it ran parallel with an armed uprising by extremists.

First Bodo Accord

  • The movement was doused temporarily with the signing of the first Bodo Accord in February 1993 between the government and moderate leaders of the movement, including those of the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU).
  • This resulted in the creation of the Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC).
  • The extremist National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB), which split into four factions later on, rejected this “trivial”
  • The discontent bred another outfit, the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), which rivalled the NDFB.
  • The Centre signed the second Bodo peace accord with the BLT in February 2003, elevating the BAC to the BTC.
  • The outfit was disbanded and most of its leaders formed the Bodoland People’s Front that ruled the BTC for several terms until the council was dissolved on April 27.
  • The third Bodo accord signed on January 27 among the Centre, the Assam government and Bodo organisations, including leaders of all the NDFB factions and the ABSU, envisaged to upgrade the BTC to the BTR.
  • The Bodo signatories had then said that the accord negated the need for another statehood movement.


India, Chile Hold First Joint Commission Meeting

  • India and Chile held their first joint commission meeting and agreed to add new momentum to their relations in a wide range of fields including trade and commerce, agriculture, health and social security, defence and space.
  • Both sides noted that the Joint Commission was a significant development in India – Chile relations, being the first institutionalized dialogue between the two countries at the level of Foreign Ministers.
  • Chile’s designated India as a priority country in its foreign policy.
  • Chile will also be opening its Consulate General in Mumbai.
  • They agreed to add new momentum to the relations of the two countries in the fields of
  • trade and commerce, agriculture, health and social security, defence, apace, science and technology, energy, mining, culture and education, disaster management and cooperation in Antarctica amongst others.


Post-COVID-19 associated hearing loss

  • A recent study conducted by researchers from University College London and the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital in the UK, says COVID-19 may affect the hearing of some patients.

What does the study say?

  • Researchers report the case of a 45-year-old patient with asthma who reported hearing loss while being treated in hospital for COVID-19.
  • The patient was intubated for 30 days and his admission was complicated further owing to reasons such as pulmonary hypertension and anaemia.
  • After receiving remdesivir, plasma therapy and intravenous steroids the patient’s condition improved.
  • However, a week after extubation and transfer out of the ICU, he reported left-sided tinnitus and sudden hearing loss.

What does this mean?

  • According to the study, hearing loss and tinnitus are both symptoms associated with COVID-19 and influenza.
  • Researchers mention that the first case of hearing loss in a SARS-CoV-2 patient was reported in April.

What are the possible explanations for this?

  • Researchers have stated two reasons.
  • One could be the presence of ACE-2 receptors that SARS-CoV-2 binds with.
  • The receptor was recently found to be expressed in the epithelial cells in the middle ear of mice.
  • Another way that COVID-19 could affect hearing is through the immune system response to the infection.
  • In this case, the inflammatory responses and an increase in cytokines due to infection could lead to hearing loss in case there is direct entry into the cochlea leading to inflammation and cell stress. 

Anti-ulcer drug shows promise in suppressing coronavirus

  • Researchers from Hong Kong have found that a class of existing drugs, which are currently used in the treatment of other infectious diseases, can suppress replication of SARS-CoV-2 and relieve Covid-19 symptoms in an animal model.
  • These are metallodrugs, which consist of metal compounds.
  • Generally, metal compounds are used as anti-microbial agents, but their antiviral activities have rarely been explored.
  • The researchers screened metallodrugs and related compounds including ranitidine bismuth citrate (RBC), a commonly used anti-ulcer drug which contains the metal bismuth.
  • They identified RBC as a potent anti SARS-CoV-2 agent. RBC targets a protein called Nsp13, which is essential for SARS-CoV-2 to replicate.
  • The experiments showed that RBC reduces viral loads by over 1,000-fold in SARS-CoV-2-infected cells.
  • RBC was found to suppress SARS-CoV-2 replication and reduce viral loads by 100-fold in both the upper and lower respiratory tracts, and to mitigate virus-associated pneumonia. 

Microbes to fight oil spillage in oceans

  • A surge in oil extraction through offshore drilling that has resulted in spillage of oil — accidentally or due to negligence.
  • Industrial effluent discharge, waste burn-out and other manmade disasters polluting the marine environment are among other concerns.
  • Cleaning up of the oil spillage from the oceans without damaging the marine ecosystem is becoming an increasingly challenging task.
  • The National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) has developed an eco-friendly crude oil bioremediation mechanism technology using consortia of marine microbes wheat bran (WB) immobilized on agro-residue bacterial cells.
  • Bioremediation can be defined as any process that uses microorganisms or their enzymes to remove and or neutralize contaminants within the environment (i.e., within soil and water) to their original condition.
  • During the study, nine different hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria extracted from the ocean sediment and collected from a depth of 2,100 metres, were used.
  • These hydrocarbon degrading bacteria don’t depend on hydrocarbon for survival, but have a metabolic mechanism where they use petroleum products as carbon and energy source and thus, help cleaning up oil spills.
  • It was found that complete breakdown and degradation of crude oil was achievable using wheat bran marine bacterial consortia (which are low-cost non-toxic agro-residues)
  • immobilised on low-cost nontoxic agro-residues bacterial cells in an environmentally sustainable manner.
  • It was also found that they were more effective in their immobilised state than the free bacteria cells in degrading the oil spills, in addition to being more versatile and resistant to adverse conditions.
  • The NIOT study found that immobilised bacterial cells had better oil degrading capacity than the free bacterial cells.
  • They could remove 84 per cent of the oils within 10 days.
  • The free bacterial cells degraded a maximum of 60 per cent of the crude oil at optimised conditions.
  • Petroleum is a mixture of natural gas, condensate, and crude oil (viscous liquid mixture) consisting mainly of thousands of hydrocarbon compounds.
  • Oil spills have the potential to cause huge environmental damage: they end up accumulating in sub-surface sediments transferring the toxic organic materials to the marine food chain.