Facts Corner-Part-148

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Tobacco Streak Virus

  • Scientists at Coimbatore-based Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) have found that a plant growth promoting rhizobacteria called Bacillus amyloliquefaciens can be used to fight Tobacco Streak Virus (TSV) in cotton crop.
  • The formulation, prepared in buttermilk, was tested against the plant virus and found effective. The use of buttermilk for its antimicrobial activity in humans and plants has been a traditional practice. Many milk proteins are known to have shown antiviral activity, by inhibiting reverse transcriptase enzyme of viruses. In the new study too, buttermilk base alone could reduce virus concentration but was more effective when used in combination with Bacillus formulations.
  • TSV causes cotton necrosis disease and is a major problem for cotton farmers. The virus gets transmitted to cotton plants through insect vector, thrips. TSV produces multifarious symptoms. Farmers are generally unaware of these symptoms and end up applying insecticides indiscriminately to control the vector. Scientists have, therefore, been looking for an eco-friendly management method.
  • Buttermilk was used as a carrier base for application of bacterial inoculation. It was found to effectively colonize rhizosphere and phylloplane of cotton plant and produce anti-microbial peptides and fatty acids, which curbed the virus.

Hog deer

  • Indian scientists have discovered the presence of a sub-species of hog deer (Axis porcinus annamiticus) in India. This endangered sub-species was earlier believed to be confined to the eastern part of central Thailand.
  • Researchers at Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun have reported presence of a small population of hog deer in Keibul Lamjao National Park (KLNP) in Manipur. The population genetically resembles A. p. annamiticus.
  • The Keibul Lamjao National is considered as a biodiversity hotspot on India-Myanmar border. This study indicates that the western limit of hog deer is Manipur and not central Thailand as believed so far. Since hog deer is losing it habitat in other countries, the genetically distinct and evolutionarily significant population found in KLNP is significant for conservation of the species.
  • The isolated and low population of wildlife species is always a matter of concern as it affects genetic diversity. Reduced genetic diversity decreases adaptability of various species in changing environment.
  • Two sub-species of hog deer have been reported from its range. The western race is distributed from Pakistan and the terai grasslands (along the Himalayan foothills, from Punjab to Arunachal Pradesh), while the eastern race of hog deer is found in Thailand, Indo-China, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
  • The hog deer or Pada is an endangered species in the IUCN Red List and is protected under Schedule I of the Indian Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. Hog deer has lost ground in most of its distribution range. Presently, its small and fragmented population is known to be found in Cambodia. A small and isolated population of under 250 was reported from Cambodia. However, it was widely distributed throughout the Southeast Asian countries at the beginning of the 20th century.

Tuberculosis

  • Tuberculosis claims two million lives each year globally. Early detection and treatment are crucial to prevent spread, outbreaks, and development of resistance.
  • TB spreads from one person to another through inhalation of infected air. When the bacteria attack the lungs, the disease manifests itself as pulmonary form. It is the most common form of TB. But about 15% of new patients in 2016 were found infected with extrapulmonary TB where organs other than lungs may be affected. Till now, detection of all forms of TB is mostly based on sputum smear microscopy and culture tests. While smear microscopy is simple and rapid, it has low sensitivity. Culture test is highly sensitive, but takes 2 to 8 weeks to get results.
  • Conventional diagnostic tests use antibodies for detection of bacterial proteins in sputum samples. However, such tests suffer with limitations including batch-to-batch variability, limited shelf-life, and cost.
  • To address these problems, the researchers have now developed two DNA aptamer-based tests – Aptamer Linked Immobilized Sorbent Assay (ALISA) and Electrochemical Sensor (ECS) for detection of a bacterial protein in the sputum.
  • Aptamers are DNA, RNA or peptide molecules that bind to specific molecular targets. They are known to bind the right target (which defines sensitivity) and at the same time rule out any non-specific binding to other targets (specificity). The performance of the newly developed tests was compared with antibody-based tests in 314 sputum samples. ALISA showed 92% sensitivity while the antibody-based method was 68% sensitive.
  • “There is no test for making a confirmed diagnosis of pleural TB. Even WHO-endorsed Gene Xpert has a poor sensitivity of 22%. On the contrary, our aptamer-based test for pleural TB has showed 93% sensitivity and is cost-effective.

Bacterial cellulose

  • Scientists at the Pune-based National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) have isolated a bacterial strain from rotten pomegranate which promises to help produce bacterial cellulose on a large scale.
  • Plants produce cellulose, an abundant biopolymer in the world, which is used for paper and pulp production. Similarly, certain bacteria too can produce cellulose.
  • Bacterial cellulose have better physicochemical properties such as crystallinity, tensile strength, moldability and larger surface area, since they are devoid of lignin and hemicelluloses material.
  • These characteristics make them suitable for biotechnological and biomedical applications like bone and tissue scaffold material, wound dressing material and even as a drug delivery agent.
  • Conventionally, a bacterium named Komagataeibacterxylinus is used for producing bacterial cellulose. Its genome was completely sequenced in 2018 which aimed at understanding the cellulose production process. The bacterium and its strains produce good quality bacterial cellulose. However, the yield is low and the cost of production is high, making it unfavourable for large scale production.

What is FASTag? 

  • FASTag is a device that employs Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology for making toll payments directly from the prepaid or savings account linked to it.
  • It is affixed on the windscreen of the vehicle and enables the commuter to drive through toll plazas without stopping for cash transactions. Road Transport and Highways Ministerhad announced in September this year that all toll plazas in India would get FASTags over the next four months. 
  • In July this year, the government had proposed making FASTag and vehicle tracking systems mandatory for commercial vehicles seeking a national permit.
  • FASTag was made mandatory for all new four-wheelers from December 2017. Mandatory FASTag is aimed at decongesting toll plazas and saving time and fuel.
  • The government has launched a mobile app through which highway users can buy FASTags which are delivered to the user’s doorsteps within 24 hours. 

Hyper Spectral Imaging Satellite
  • The Hyper Spectral Imaging Satellite (HysIS), an earth observation satellite developed by ISRO, is the primary satellite of the PSLV-C43 mission
  • The mass of the spacecraft is about 380 kg, the space agency said adding that the satellite would be placed in 636 km-polar sun synchronous orbit with an inclination of 97.957 degree.
  • The primary goal of HysIS, whose mission life is five years, is to study the earth’s surface in visible near infrared and shortwave infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.
  • The co-passengers of HysIS include 1 micro and 29 nano satellites from eight different countries. All these satellites have been commercially contracted for launch through ISRO’s commercial arm Antrix Corporation Limited. All the satellites would be placed in a 504 km orbit by PSLV-C43.
  • PSLV is a four stage launch vehicle with alternating solid and liquid stages. PSLV-C43, which is the 45th flight of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), is the ‘Core Alone’ version of PSLV. It is the lightest version of the launch vehicle.
  • The space agency had launched its latest communication satellite GSAT-29 on board GSLV MkIII-D2.

GSAT-11

  • India’s heaviest communication satellite with high throughput GSAT-11 will be put into orbit by Ariane-5 rocket of Arianespace from French Guiana on December 5, 2018.
  • According to Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the GSAT-11 weighing 5,854 kg is the heaviest satellite built by it. 
  • The satellite is scheduled for launch on board Ariane-5 launch vehicle from French Guiana. 
  • The satellite will be initially placed in the Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit and will subsequently be raised to geostationary orbit by firing the satellite’s on-board motor. 
  • According to ISRO, GSAT-11 is the forerunner in a series of advanced communications satellites with multi-spot beam antenna coverage over Indian mainland and islands. 
  • The satellite with a mission life of 15 years will have 32 user beams (Ku band) and eight hub beams (Ka band) and the throughput data rate of 16 Gbps. 
  • GSAT-11 will play a vital role in providing broadband services across the country. It will also provide a platform to demonstrate new generation applications. 
  • The Indian space agency said the GSAT-11 will be used to meet the increased data demands with high data rates over regions using spot beams. 
  • The satellite will support BharathNet connecting gram panchayat for e-governance and digital platforms; VSAT terminals and for enterprise network and consumer broadband applications. 

Supercomputers
  • India has 32 supercomputers across institutions with a combined capacity of 12.77 petaflops with two machines—Pratyush at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune, and Mihir at the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting in Noida—ranking in the top 100 supercomputers in the world. 

Planck constant

  • The world’s standard definition of the kilogram, the ampere, the kelvin and the mole has been changed, after representatives from 60 countries voted to redefine the International System of Units (SI) for weight, current, temperature and amount of chemical substance. 
  • The definition of the kilogram for more than 130 years, the International Prototype of the Kilogram (IPK), a cylinder of a platinum alloy stored at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in France, will now be retired. 
  • It will be replaced by the Planck constant — the fundamental constant of quantum physics. While the stability of the IPK could only be confirmed by comparisons with identical copies, a difficult and potentially inaccurate process, the Planck constant is ready for use everywhere and always. 
  • The decision, made at the General Conference on Weights and Measures in Versailles, France, which is organised by BIPM, means that all SI units will now be defined in terms of constants that describe the natural world.
  • This will assure the future stability of the SI and open the opportunity for the use of new technologies, including quantum technologies, to implement the definitions. 
  • The changes, which will come into force on May 20 next year, will bring an end to the use of physical objects to define measurement units. 
  • The SI redefinition is a landmark moment in scientific progress.
  • The new definitions impact four of the seven base units of the SI: the kilogram, ampere, kelvin and mole; and all units derived from them, such as the volt, ohm and joule. 
  • Although the size of these units will not change, the four redefined units will join the second, the metre and the candela to ensure that the set of SI base units will continue to be both stable and useful. 
  • The new definition of kg involves accurate weighing machines called ‘Kibble balance’. 
  • It uses the constant to measure the mass of an object using a precisely measured electromagnetic force.