Current Affairs Analysis

3rd & 4th May 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

eCovSens: Portable coronavirus detection kit; African Swine Fever; Covid Toe; Final draft of New Education Policy; Blackbuck; Iceland will not hunt whales in 2020; Location of Iceland; Human sweat as a source of power; NASA, SpaceX to launch astronauts into space; Centenary celebration of Satyajit Ray; NGMA pays tribute to Jamini Roy; The future of River Management; Unicode Consortium; Emergency Use Authorisation for Remdesivir; etc.
By IASToppers
May 04, 2020

Contents

Issues related to Health and Education

  • eCovSens: Portable coronavirus detection kit
  • African Swine Fever
  • Covid Toe
  • Final draft of New Education Policy

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Blackbuck
  • Iceland will not hunt whales in 2020

Science and Technology

  • Human sweat as a source of power
  • NASA, SpaceX to launch astronauts into space

Art and Culture

  • Centenary celebration of Satyajit Ray
  • NGMA pays tribute to Jamini Roy

Key Facts for Prelims

  • The future of River Management
  • Unicode Consortium
  • Emergency Use Authorisation for Remdesivir

For IASToppers Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here

Issues related to Health and Education

eCovSens: Portable coronavirus detection kit

The researchers from the National Institute of Animal Biotechnology (NIAB), Hyderabad, have developed a biosensor that can detect the novel coronavirus in saliva samples.

New device:

  • Biosensors have been currently used across the world to detect toxins, narcotic drugs, and are also considered as a reliable tool to detect infectious diseases.
  • The new portable device named eCovSens, can be used to detect the presence of novel coronavirus antigens in human saliva within 30 seconds using just 20 microlitres of the sample.

Mechanism:

  • The in-house built biosensor consists of a carbon electrode and the coronavirus antibody.
  • The antibody is capable of binding with the spike protein found on the outer layer of the virus.
  • An electrical signal is generated when the antigen and antibody binds.
  • Electrical components in the device further amplify this signal, process it, convert it to digital readings on an LCD display.
  • The device can also be battery-operated as it uses very low voltage of 1.3V to 3V.

National Institute of Animal Biotechnology (NIAB):

  • The National Institute of Animal Biotechnology  is an Indian autonomous research establishment of the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology (India).
  • The primary mandate of NIAB is towards the development of sustainability and globally competitive livestock (farm animals) for public and industry through innovative and cutting edge technology.
  • The emphasis is on showing excellence in production of globally competitive livestock products, pharmaceuticals (medicines), nutritional products and other biologicals related to animal health care.
[Ref: The Hindu]

African Swine Fever

The Centre has advised the Assam state government to go for the culling of pigs affected by the African swine fever (ASF) in the state.

About the African Swine Fever:

  • African Swine Fever is a transboundary animal disease which can spread by live or dead pigs and pork products.
  • It is a highly contagious animal disease.
  • It affects domestic and wild pigs and causes high mortality.
  • It is caused by a large DNA virus of the Asfarviridae family.
  • Affected pigs suffer from an acute form of haemorrhagic fever.
  • The first outbreak occurred in 1921 in Kenya.
  • ASF is not a risk to human health.

Transmission mechanisms:

  • Direct contact with infected domestic or wild pigs;
  • Indirect contact, through ingestion of contaminated material (e.g. food waste, feed, or garbage);
  • Through biological vectors like ticks.

What is the Impact?

  • The mortality rate is close to 100 percent.
  • ASF is responsible for the production and economic losses at local, regional and national levels.
  • ASF is a disease of growing strategic importance for global food security and household income.
  • Post outbreak, the pork prices increase.
  • Moreover consumers shift to alternate sources of protein like beef and chicken.

Treatment Methods:

  • Post infection, culling (selective slaughter) and burying the animal.
  • No vaccinations or treatment options available.
  • Prevention systems include proper implementation of appropriate import policies and biosecurity measures.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Covid Toe

A paper published in the British Journal of Dermatology talks about “unexplained” skin manifestations in Covid-19 patients including the so-called ‘covid toe’.

Symptoms of Covid-19:

  • The most common symptoms include fever, dry cough, sore throat and muscle pain among others.
  • Other symptoms include the loss of smell and taste, confusion, stroke and seizures in a small subset of patients infected with the virus.
  • Recently the researchers have described five clinical patterns, including ‘covid toe’ which has been observed in 19 percent of the cases examined.

What is ‘covid toe’?

  • ‘Covid toe’ is a kind of rash being reported as a manifestation in some Covid-19 patients’ toes.
  • It was seen in 19 percent of the cases and the researchers have likened it to pseudo-chilblain lesions.
  • Of the 71 cases that had these pseudo-chilblains, 41 percent had confirmed SARS-CoV-2, the virus strain that causes Covid-19.
  • Chilblains are small, itchy, red patches that appear on the toes and fingers after a person has been exposed to the cold due to inflammation in the small blood vessels in the skin.

Are skin conditions common in viral diseases?

  • A 1966 paper published in Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews says that rashes accompanying infectious diseases date back to ancient times and are one of the most characteristic and “readily observed” signs of disease.
  • For instance, chickenpox, which is a contagious viral disease causes itchy, fluid-filled blisters on the skin.
  • Measles is another viral disease, which may lead to a breakout of skin rashes, which usually begin as flat red spots on the face and spread downward to the neck, trunk, arms, feet and legs.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Final draft of New Education Policy

The final draft of the New Education Policy (NEP) is said to be silent on student participation in decision-making bodies, committees, and institutional processes of a university or college.

Key Features:

  • The final policy draft limits giving students plenty of opportunities to be involved in sports, culture/arts clubs, activity clubs, community service projects.
  • It speaks of creating a “systematised arrangement” to support “students from rural backgrounds, including increasing hostel facilities as needed”.
  • The provision on setting up “systems and mechanisms” to enable student participation in the institutional processes of higher education institutions is missing from the document shared by the HRD Ministry.

Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE):

  • The final policy document has dropped a proposal to set up a Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog (RSA) as suggested by the Kasturirangan Committee.
  • The RSA was to be headed by the Prime Minister and was intended to replace the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE).
  • Following objections from the state governments to this proposal the proposal has been scrapped altogether.
  • The policy circulated among ministries instead speaks of strengthening CABE and giving it a greater mandate.
  • The final draft of the NEP has also dropped the recommendation on setting up a “permanent Indian Education Service (IES) cadre comprising a specialist cadre of the bureaucracy”.

To know more about Draft National Education Policy 2019, refer IASTopper’s Mains Article: https://www.iastoppers.com/draft-national-education-policy-2019-mains-article/

[Ref: Indian Express]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Blackbuck

The blackbuck aka Indian antelope is a species of antelope found in India.

About blackbuck:

  • The blackbuck is a diurnal i.e. active mainly during the day.
  • They generally inhabit grassy plains; thinly forested areas and scrublands with hot and humid conditions .
  • The Female antelopes are generally hornless.
  • It is considered to be the fastest animal next to Cheetah.
  • It is found in Central-Western India (MP, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra and Odisha) and Southern India (Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu).
  • In India, there are a few national parks and sanctuaries inhabited by blackbuck, like the Velavadar Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat and the Ranebennur Blackbuck Sanctuary in Karnataka.

Conservation status:

  • The blackbuck has significance in Hinduism; Indian and Nepali villagers do not harm the antelope.
  • The Bishnoi community of Rajasthan is known worldwide for their conservation efforts of blackbuck and Chinkara.
  • In India, hunting of blackbuck is prohibited under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 and its hunting invites punishment of up to seven years in jail.
  • IUCN Status: Least Concern
[Ref: Down To Earth]

Iceland will not hunt whales in 2020

Iceland has decided to cancel their summer whaling season and will not be hunting any whales in 2020 because of economic pressure due to Covid-19.

Location of Iceland:

  • Iceland is a remote island country located in the North Atlantic Ocean on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
  • It is known worldwide for its immense geological activity and large glaciers and has been nicknamed the land of ice and fire.
  • It is a part of the Scandinavian union with Denmark, Norway, Faroe Islands, Finland and Sweden.
  • The country was settled around 870 AD by Norse Vikings and there has been an ongoing settlement in Iceland ever since.
  • Iceland is situated at the confluence of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates come together.
  • Due to its location Iceland is very volcanically and geologically active with daily earthquakes and numerous volcanoes.
  • Capital: Reykjavík
[Ref: Down To Earth]

Science and Technology

Human sweat as a source of power

A Californian Group of researchers have been able to generate electrical energy from human sweat.

Sweat as power supply:

  • The skin specialists attach a thin polymer-based sheet which contains the desired drug, stick it to the skin on a person’s arm or chest and deliver the drug past the sweat fluid directly into the body, using a tiny electric current on the patch.
  • This is thus a wearable technology for personalised medicine — no pills or potions.
  • In all these assays, the probes and sensors need to be powered externally using microbatteries.
  • The researchers have added the enzyme Lox on a patch on the individual’s e-skin patch which would react with the lactate in the sweat and oxidise it to pyruvate in a bioanode.
  • It reduces the oxygen into water in a biocathode, thus generating electrical energy that is sufficient to drive the patch with no external energy source.

Role of Sweat in Human body:

  • Sweat comes out of three types of glands distributed across all over our skin, secreting water and substances that help keep our body at the optimum temperature of 37 degrees C (or 98.4 degrees F).
  • Our brain has temperature-sensitive nerve cells (neurons) which control the sweat glands in releasing the fluid depending on the temperature and physical and metabolic activity of the body.
  • Sweat is thus our body’s thermo-regulator.

What does sweat contain?

  • It is 99% water containing sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and chloride ions, ammonium ions, urea, lactic acid, glucose and other minor components.
  • In an illness called cystic fibrosis, the ratio of the sodium to chloride ions in the sweat is different from that of a normal individual.
  • Likewise, the amount of glucose in the sweat of a diabetic is higher than normal.
[Ref: The Hindu]

NASA, SpaceX to launch astronauts into space

NASA has announced recently that it has set May 27 as the target launch date for sending two astronauts to the International Space Station.

About the Mission:

  • The astronauts will be launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, US aboard a rocket built by the company SpaceX.
  • The specific duration of the mission is yet to be determined.
  • The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule will be only the fifth class of US spacecraft to take human beings into orbit, after the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle programs.
  • That flight would take four astronauts — three from NASA and one from the Japanese space agency — to the space station.
  • The mission is a major milestone for SpaceX, the company founded by billionaire Elon Musk, who also leads and founded Tesla.
[Ref: Hindustan Times]

 

Art and Culture

Centenary celebration of Satyajit Ray

The Ministry of Culture’s Development of Museums and Cultural Spaces (DMCS) has digitally launched the short film ‘A Ray of Genius’ to mark the beginning of the centenary celebrations of Satyajit Ray.

  • Development of Museum and Cultural Spaces (DMCS) under the Ministry of Culture is mandated to modernize, upgrade and curate museums and cultural spaces with focus on iconic museums and cultural spaces in India.

Satyajit Ray:

  • Satyajit Ray, (born May 2, 1921—died April 23, 1992) was a Bengali motion-picture director who brought the Indian cinema to world recognition with Pather Panchali.
  • He was one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th century.
  • Ray was an Indian filmmaker, screenwriter, music composer, graphic artist, lyricist and author, widely regarded as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.
  • The Government of India honored him with the Bharat Ratna, its highest civilian award, in 1992.
  • Ray’s first film, Pather Panchali (1955), won eleven international prizes, including the inaugural Best Human Document award at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival.
[Ref: PIB]

NGMA pays tribute to Jamini Roy

National Gallery of Modern Art pays tribute to the pioneering artist Jamini Roy on his 133rd Birth Anniversary year through a virtual tour.

Highlights:

  • The virtual tour shows the variations of mood in his creations, showing 203 out of 215 art works from the permanent collection of NGMA.
  • This virtual tour of the entire art works of the pioneering artist would certainly enrich the art lovers, is happening for the first time in India.

Jamini Roy:

  • Jamini Roy was one of the earliest and most significant modernists of twentieth century Indian art.
  • From 1920 onwards his search for the essence of form led him to experiment with dramatically different visual styles with his career spanning over nearly six decades.
  • Trained in the British academic style of painting in the early decades of the twentieth century, Jamini Roy became well-known as a skilful portraitist.
  • The Bengal School, founded by Abanindranath Tagore and Kala Bhavana in Santiniketan under Nandalal Bose rejected European naturalism and the use of oil as a medium and were exploring new ways of representation.
  • Jamini Roy, too, consciously rejected the style and sought inspiration from diverse sources as East Asian calligraphy, terracotta temple friezes, objects from folk arts and crafts traditions.
  • His images for the most part became either monochromatic bearing an austere play of white, soft grey and black or the palette was limited to the use of one or two colours.
[Ref: PIB]

Key Facts for Prelims

The future of River Management

  • The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) under the Ministry of Jal Shakti and National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) organized an IDEAthon on “The future of River Management’.
  • It was aimed to explore how the COVID-19 crisis can shape River Management strategies for the future.

 

Unicode Consortium

  • The Unicode Consortium (a non-profit organization based in California, USA) which specifies the representation of text in software products has accepted the proposal to add two Tamil characters to the Telugu characters: (LLLA) ழ and (RRA) ற, for transcribing religious Tamil texts.
  • The Unicode Standard assigns code to characters from different languages in the world so that they can be understood and displayed across software platforms.

Emergency Use Authorisation for Remdesivir

  • The United States Food and Drug Administration granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of anti-viral drug remdesivir for patients of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
  • The broad-spectrum antiviral medication has been developed by US-based Gilead Sciences Inc, an American bio-pharmaceuticals company.
  • Issue: One of the research trials found that it did not significantly improve the time to clinical improvement, mortality or even the time to clearance of virus in patients with serious COVID-19 compared to placebo.
  • Placebo refers to the group of patients enrolled for the trial who were given an inactive form of the drug in comparison to those who were given an active form. Such a trial is known as a ‘controlled trial’ in medical parlance.
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