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Current Affairs 15 April 2023

Contents:

  1. Need for Genome sequencing surveillance
  2. Regulating the crypto sector
  3. Covid- moving towards the endemic stage in India

Need for Genome Sequencing Surveillance


Context:

Amid rising cases of coronavirus in West Bengal, the state Covid advisory board on Friday stressed the need for stepping up genome sequencing surveillance to keep tabs on the situation.

Relevance:

GS paper: 3 Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Genome Sequencing?
  2. Need for genome sequencing:
  3. India’s Genome Sequencing Efforts:
  4. India’s Genome Sequencing Challenges
  5. Conclusion   

What is Genome Sequencing?

  • The process of deciphering the exact order of base pairs in an individual is known as genome sequencing. What sequencing is all about is “deciphering” or reading the genome.
  • The cost of sequencing varies depending on the methods used to read the genome or the accuracy required in decoding the genome.

Need for genome sequencing:

  • Since the human genome was first sequenced in 2003, it has provided a new perspective on the relationship between disease and each individual’s unique genetic make-up.
  • It is now known that nearly 10,000 diseases, including cystic fibrosis and thalassemia, are caused by a single gene malfunction.
  • While genes may make some people resistant to certain drugs, genome sequencing has shown that cancer, too, can be understood through genetics rather than being viewed as a disease of specific organs.

India’s Genome Sequencing Efforts:

  • The Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) sequenced the entire genome of a novel coronavirus.
  • IndiGen Genome Project:
  • In April 2019, the CSIR launched the IndiGen initiative, which was carried out by the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) in Delhi and the CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad.
  • Using population genome data, the goal is to enable genetic epidemiology and develop public health technology applications.
  • This has allowed us to benchmark the scalability of genome sequencing and computational analysis at the population scale within a specific time frame.
  • The ability to decode humans’ genetic blueprint via whole genome sequencing will be a major driving force in biomedical science.
  • The IndiGen programme aims to sequence the entire genomes of thousands of Indians from various ethnic groups.

Genome India:

  • The Indian government recently approved a gene-mapping project called “Genome India.”
  • To construct a grid of the Indian “reference genome” in order to fully understand the types and nature of diseases and traits found in the diverse Indian population.
  • The Centre for Brain Research at Bengaluru’s Indian Institute of Science serves as the nodal point for approximately 20 institutions.

India’s Genome Sequencing Challenges

  • Very high goal: The goal was to sequence at least 5% of the samples, the bare minimum required to keep track of virus variants. This has so far been around 1%, owing to a lack of reagents and tools required to scale up the process.
  • Limited Capacity: The ten laboratories can sequence about 30,000 samples per month, or 1,000 per day, which is six times less than what is required to meet the target.
  • Funding crunch: Funding is repeatedly delayed. INSACOG requested Rs 100 crore, but funding did not arrive until March, when it received Rs 70 crore.
  • Sample Collection: The healthcare system is already overburdened, and this is another task for them to sort and package samples and RNA preparations on a regular basis for shipping in a cold chain to sequencing centres, as well as record extensive metadata to make sequence information useful.
  • Import Dependence: The Atma Nirbhar scheme, which prohibited imports of goods worth less than Rs 200 crore in order to promote local procurement, slowed the process of genome sequencing. Even after the exemption, some special plastics inadvertently remained subject to the import ban, causing problems with the process.
  • International aspect: India’s image abroad suffers as a result of slow progress in genome sequencing, as all countries are required to upload data to a common global repository known as the ‘Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data,’ or GISAID.

Conclusion

  • Given the benefits of genome sequencing, it will aid in a better understanding of the human body and processes, as well as in the treatment of previously incurable diseases.
  • Although there are some issues and challenges, they are manageable and can be resolved.

-Source: The Indian Express


Regulating The Crypto Sector


Context:

Recently, the India’s Finance Minister pointed out the importance of regulating the crypto sector while protecting economies from harm.

Relevance:

GS III- Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key points
  2. What are cryptocurrencies?
  3. How are they different from actual currency?
  4. How do cryptocurrencies derive their value?
  5. What is the state of cryptocurrency right now?
  6. What are the RBIs Concerns?

Key points:

  • Addressing the session of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF), the Finance Minister asserted the need for urgent attention to be given to issues related to crypto assets.
  • Nirmala Sitharaman, who represented India as the current annual presidency of G20 countries.
  • India stressed the need for a globally coordinated policy response on crypto assets that considers the full range of risks, including those specific to emerging markets and developing economies.
  • The G20 countries also expressed unanimity on the urgency to regulate this sector, which has emerged as a significant point of discussion among member nations. 

What are cryptocurrencies?

  • Cryptocurrencies are e-currencies that are based on decentralized technology and operate on a distributed public ledger called the blockchain.
  • Blockchain records all transactions updated and held by currency holders.
  • The technology allows people to make payments and store money digitally without having to use their names or a financial intermediary such as banks.
  • Cryptocurrency units such as Bitcoin are created through a ‘mining’ process which involves using a computer to solve numerical problems that generate coins.
  • Bitcoin was one of the first cryptocurrencies to be launched and was created in 2009.

How are they different from actual currency?

  • The Main difference is that unlike actual currencies cryptocurrencies are not issued by Governments.
  • Actual money is created or printed by the government which has a monopoly in terms of issuing currency. Central banks across the world issue paper notes and therefore create money and assign paper notes their value.
  • Money created through this process derives its value via government fiat, which is why the paper currency is also called fiat currency.
  • In the case of cryptocurrencies, the process of creating the currency is not monopolized as anyone can create it through the mining process.

How do cryptocurrencies derive their value?

  • Any currency has its value if it can be exchanged for goods or services and if it is a store of value (it can maintain purchasing power over time).
  • Cryptocurrencies, in contrast to fiat currencies, derive their value from exchanges.
  • The extent of involvement of the community in terms of demand and supply of cryptocurrencies helps determine their value.

What is the state of cryptocurrency right now?

  • In India, there is currently no legislation that addresses cryptocurrency. Owning cryptocurrencies is still legal in India. The Reserve Bank of India’s restriction on the trade of cryptocurrency in India was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2020.
  • Since as early as 2013, the central bank has issued warnings against the use of virtual currencies.

What are the RBIs Concerns?

  • Because every modern money must be issued by the government or the central bank, cryptocurrencies are not considered to be legal tender.
  • While monetary policy and their status as legal tender serve as the foundation for the value of fiat currencies, the value of cryptocurrencies is solely based on speculation and unfounded expectations of high returns, which will have a destabilising effect on a nation’s monetary and fiscal stability.

 -Source: Livemint


Covid- Moving Towards The Endemic Stage in India


Context:

According to the data updated by the Union Health Ministry recently, India recorded a single-day rise of 10,158 coronavirus cases, the highest in nearly eight months

Relevance:

GS II- Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key points
  2. What does endemic stage mean, and are we there yet?
  3. Does it mean we are safer?
  4. What is a Coronavirus?
  5. How does the novel coronavirus spread?
  6. What are the Symptoms of Coronavirus?
  7. How to prevent Coronavirus infection?

Key points:

  • India is witnessing a surge in Covid-19 cases, across all states.
  • The number of active cases has increased to 44,998, constituting 0.10 per cent of the total infections.
  • The report pointed out that Covid is moving towards the endemic stage.
    • It means that the virus has become a part of the population’s regular disease cycle, much like the flu.
    • This also means that the virus is present at a relatively stable level within a specific geographic area or population.
  • Government sources also highlighted that even though Covid-19 cases are increasing, hospitalisation is low and it is expected to remain low.

What does endemic stage mean, and are we there yet?

  • An infection becomes endemic when the rates become static in a given geographical location, meaning that the pathogen causing the disease — SARS-CoV-2 in this case — is likely to remain in circulation without causing large outbreaks as witnessed over the last two years.
  • Although the number of infections in India is consistently declining, experts say they cannot give a deadline on when the disease will become endemic.
  • It will depend on the number of susceptible people in the population, vaccination rates, and emergence of new variants that are able to evade the immune response.
    • For example, flu which goes up in the winters and when the season is changing because of lower immunity in people or dengue which goes up after monsoons because of the availability of vectors. Covid-19 also may become seasonal and cause disease in the vulnerable
  • An important determinant for whether we can “technically” say that the disease is endemic would be a representative sero-survey (population-level survey of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2) and laboratory susceptibility studies
  • The disease is endemic only after we see that a majority of the people have immunity against the infection either through previous exposure or vaccination.

Does it mean we are safer?

  • A disease becoming endemic does not mean it is harmless. A disease can be endemic and both widespread and deadly.
    • For Example: Malaria killed more than 600,000 people in 2020. Ten million fell ill with tuberculosis that same year and 1.5 million died.
  • Endemic certainly does not mean that evolution has somehow tamed a pathogen so that life simply returns to normal.

What is a Coronavirus?

  • Coronaviruses are a class of viruses so named because their electron microscope image resembles the corona of the sun.
  • They are usually found in animals, but sometimes get transmitted to human beings possibly through the food chain.
  • The symptoms can include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
  • This happened during the 2003 outbreak of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus that claimed close to 800 lives.
  • The current 2019 strain that had originated in China has been named as 2019 ‘novel’ coronavirus (2019-nCoV) or SARS-CoV-2.

How does the novel coronavirus spread?

The virus is transmitted through

  1. Direct contact with respiratory droplets of an infected person (generated through coughing and sneezing)
  2. Touching surfaces contaminated with the virus.

The virus may survive on surfaces for several hours, but simple disinfectants can kill it.

What are the Symptoms of Coronavirus?

  • Signs and symptoms of COVID-19 may appear two to 14 days after exposure and can include:
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • The severity of COVID-19 symptoms can range from very mild to severe.
  • People who are older or have existing medical conditions, such as heart disease, may be at higher risk of serious illness.
  • This is similar to what is seen with other respiratory illnesses, such as influenza.

How to prevent Coronavirus infection?

  • Although there is no vaccine available to prevent infection with the new coronavirus, you can take steps to reduce your risk of infection. WHO and CDC recommend following the standard precautions for avoiding respiratory viruses:
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth if your hands aren’t clean.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.
  • Avoid sharing dishes, glasses, bedding and other household items if you’re sick.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces you often touch.
  • Stay home from work, school and public areas if you’re sick.
  • CDC doesn’t recommend that healthy people wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. Only wear a mask if a health care provider tells you to do so.
  • WHO also recommends that you:
  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat or animal organs.
  • Avoid contact with live animals and surfaces they may have touched if you’re visiting live markets in areas that have recently had new coronavirus cases.

-Source: The Indian Express


 

 

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