Prepare Prelims-2017-Day-48-Science & Tech

WHO certifies India Yaws, Maternal & Neonatal Tetanus free

  • India has officially received certificates from World Health Organisation (WHO), recognizing the elimination of Yaws and Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus (MNT) from the country.
  • WHO had officially declared India yaws-free in May 2016 after a team of experts verified interruption of disease transmission in the country.
  • India was the first country in the world to eliminate yaws under the 2012 WHO neglected tropical diseases (NTD) roadmap.
  • Besides, India also was declared maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT) free in August 2015 after it was reduced to less than one case per 1000 live births in all 675 districts.
  • Yaws is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the skin, cartilages and bones.
  • It is caused by the spirochete bacterium Treponema pallidum pertenue.
  • It spreads by direct contact with the fluid from a lesion of an infected person.
  • It mainly affects children below 15 years of age.

It mainly occurs in overcrowded communities with limited access to basic amenities such as water, sanitation and health care services.

India declares itself free from bird flu: All about it

India has declared itself free from bird flu or Avian Influenza (H5N1) virus, while stressing the need for continued surveillance. The government has notified the same to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

According to the Department of Animal Husbandry under the Agriculture Ministry they made the announcement as the last case of the disease was declared in May 2016, in Humnabad, Bidar district, Karnataka.

Listed below are the measures taken by the government to eliminate bird flu:

  • Stamping out the entire poultry population, including eggs, feed, litter and other infected material
  • Restriction on movement of poultry and poultry products to and from the area of outbreak
  • Disinfection and cleaning up of infected premises
  • Also, surveillance was carried out throughout the country after the outbreak

What is Avian Influenza (AI)?

  • Also known as bird flu, it is an infectious viral disease of birds.


  • Initial symptoms include high fever, usually with a temperature higher than 38 degree Centigrade, and other influenza-like symptoms (cough or sore throat). Diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, chest pain, and bleeding from the nose and gums
  • Development of lower respiratory tract also happens early in the illness. Respiratory distress, a hoarse voice, and a crackling sound when inhaling are commonly seen. Sputum production is variable and sometimes bloody

Here are the key facts about bird flu:

  • Most avian influenza viruses do not infect humans; however some, such as A(H5N1) and A(H7N9), have caused serious infections in people
  • AI viruses can sometimes spread to domestic poultry and cause large-scale outbreaks of serious disease. Some of these AI viruses have also been reported to cross the species barrier and cause disease or subclinical infections in humans and other mammals
  • The incubation period for A(H5N1) avian influenza may be longer than that for normal seasonal influenza
  • AI viruses are divided into 2 groups based on their ability to cause disease in poultry, which are high pathogenicity and low pathogenicity

Highly pathogenic viruses have been known to result in high death rates (up to 100 per cent mortality within 48 hours) in some poultry species.

Low pathogenicity viruses also cause outbreaks in poultry but are not generally associated with severe disease.

Indian scientists unlock preterm birth mystery

  • Indian researchers have made a major discovery by understanding the mechanisms by which preterm births (between 28 and 32 weeks of gestation) occur.
  • At 35%,India accounts for the highest burden of preterm births in the world.

What has been discovered?

  • The researchers found that gram-positive Group B Streptococcus (GBS) bacteria produce small balloons called membrane vesicles, which contain toxins that kill both foetal and maternal cells and destroy the collagen that binds the cells together.
  • The researchers found that the toxins present in the vesicles fragmented the collagen of the amniotic membrane. Fragmentation of the collagen leads to loss in elasticity and weakening of the amniotic membrane thus making it susceptible to rupture due to pressure from the growing foetus. This leads to preterm birth.
  • The vesicles also degrade the collagen in the womb.

GBS Bacteria:

  • Group B Streptococcus (GBS) bacteria are normally found in human vagina and their numbers can shoot up in some pregnant women.
  • The GBS bacteria have been associated with premature rupture of amniotic membrane and preterm birth.

How the study was carried out?

  • The scientists tested hypothesis by injecting vesicles into 15 pregnant mice.
  • All the injected mice gave birth to preterm babies and nearly 40 per cent were born dead (stillborn).
  • The preterm babies were much smaller and unhealthy. In mice, the babies were born two days preterm. This is equivalent to two months in humans as the gestation period in mice is 21 days.

What is preterm birth?

  • Preterm, also known as premature birth is a birth that takes place more than three weeks before the baby is due.
  • In other words, a premature birth is one that occurs before the start of the 37th week of pregnancy.
  • Normally, a pregnancy usually lasts about 40 weeks.

Premature birth gives the baby less time to develop in the womb.

Govt approves 6 start-up centres

  • The Central government has approved six proposals to set up centres of excellence to promote and fund start-ups under the National Initiative for Development and Harnessing Innovation (NIDHI), a programme steered by the Department of Science and Technology.

 About NIDHI:

  • An umbrella program is pioneered by the Department of Science & Technology(DST) for nurturing ideas and innovations (knowledge-based and technology-driven) into successful startups.
  • Focuses on building a seamless and innovation driven entrepreneurial ecosystem especially by channelizing youth towards it and thereby bringing in the positive impact on the socio-economic development of the country.
  • The program aims to provide technological solutions not only to the pressing needs of the society but also targets to create new avenues for wealth and job creation.
  • By design connects and strengthens all the links of the innovation chain from scouting to sustaining to securing to scaling to showcasing, because a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
  • The key stakeholders of NIDHI includes various departments and ministries of the central government, state governments, academic and R & D institutions, mentors, financial institutions, angel investors, venture capitalists, industry champions and private sectors.

It strongly addresses the new national aspirations by massively scaling up DST’s experience of three decades in promoting innovative startups.

GSLV Successfully Launches India’s Weather Satellite INSAT-3DR

  • In its tenth flight (GSLV-F05) conducted recently, India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, equipped with the indigenous Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS), successfully launched the country’s weather satellite INSAT-3DR, into a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).

 All about it:

  • The launch took place from the Second Launch Pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR (SDSC SHAR), Sriharikota, the spaceport of India.
  • This was the first operational flight of GSLV equipped with CUS and the fourth to carry the indigenous CUS.
  • This flight was the third consecutive success achieved by GSLV carrying indigenous CUS.
  • The 2211 kg INSAT-3DR is the heaviest satellite to be launched from the Indian soil.
  • INSAT-3DR satellite is now orbiting the Earth with a perigee (nearest point to Earth) of 169.76 km and an apogee (farthest point to Earth) of 36,080.5 km with an orbital inclination of 20.62 deg with respect to the equator.

About INSAT- 3DR:

  • INSAT-3DR is an advanced meteorological (weather observation) satellite built by India to provide a variety inputs essential for accurate weather forecasting.
  • For this, it is equipped with three payloads (instruments), namely, a Multispectral Imager, Sounder and weather Data Relay Transponder.
  • INSAT-3DR also carries a satellite aided Search and Rescue Transponder that picks up and relays alert signals originating from distress beacons of maritime, aviation and land based users.
  • In the coming days, INSAT-3DR’s orbit will be raised from its present GTO to the final circular Geostationary Orbit (GSO) by firing the satellite’s Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) in stages.
  • The major users of the service will be the Indian Coast Guards, Airports Authority of India (AAI), Directorate General of Shipping, Defence Services and fishermen.

The Indian service region will cover a large part of the Indian Ocean and will also include Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Tanzania for providing distress alert services.

GSAT-11 to be launched in early 2017

  • GSAT-11 is set to be launched early next year on the European Ariane launch vehicle.

 About GSAT-11:

  • In 2009, Government of India had approved the development of GSAT-11, which is touted to be one of the largest Indian communication satellite.
  • GSAT-11 is a four-tonne geostationary communications satellite, which has a mission life of about 15 years.
  • The GSAT-11 will not only link all the towns and villages in this country with quality high-speed Wi-Fi service, it will also integrate internet and television services.
  • The satellite is currently under development at Department of Space and ISRO facilities.
  • GSAT-11 is designed to generate a bandwidth of more than 12 gbps primarily for users of Internet driven services, VSAT operations and rural connectivity.

NASA’s Cassini to make final, closest observations of Saturn

  • After studying Saturn, its rings and moons for more than 12 years, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has entered the final year of its epic voyage during which it will make the closest-ever observations of the planet.
  • The conclusion of the historic scientific odyssey is planned for September 2017.


  • Cassini’s final phase, called the Grand Finale, begins in earnest in April next year.
  • A close flyby of Saturn’s giant moon Titan will reshape the spacecraft’s orbit so that it passes through the gap between Saturn and the rings, an unexplored space only about 2,400 kilometers wide.
  • During the Grand Finale, Cassini will make the closest-ever observations of Saturn, mapping the planet’s magnetic and gravity fields with exquisite precision and returning ultra-close views of the atmosphere.
  • Cassini’s orbit will send the spacecraft just past the outer edge of the main rings. These orbits, a series of 20, are called the F-ring orbits.
  • During these weekly orbits, Cassini will approach to within 7,800 kilometres of the centre of the narrow F ring, with its peculiar kinked and braided structure.

About Cassini Mission:

  • Cassini–Huygens is an unmanned spacecraft sent to the planet Saturn. Cassini is the fourth space probe to visit Saturn and the first to enter orbit.
  • Its design includes a Saturn orbiter and a lander for the moon Titan.
  • The lander, called Huygens, landed on Titan in 2005. The spacecraft was launched on October 15, 1997.
  • This was the first landing ever accomplished in the outer Solar System.


  • Determine the three-dimensional structure and dynamic behavior of the rings of Saturn.
  • Determine the composition of the satellite surfaces and the geological history of each object.
  • Determine the nature and origin of the dark material on Iapetus’s leading hemisphere.
  • Measure the three-dimensional structure and dynamic behavior of the magnetosphere.
  • Study the dynamic behavior of Saturn’s atmosphere at cloud level.
  • Study the time variability of Titan’s clouds and hazes.
  • Characterize Titan’s surface on a regional scale.


  • It is a super computing facility launched recently at IIT, Guwahati.
  • PARAM-ISHAN have power of 250 Teraflops and three hundred tera bites capacity and this will not only augment the research initiatives in the Institute, but also help in creating an ecosystem for attracting right talents to the field of research.
  • PARAM-ISHAN can be used in the application areas like Computational Chemistry, Computational Fluid Dynamics, Computational Electromagnetic, Civil Engineering Structures, Nana-block Self Assemble, Optimization etc. North East India receives heavy rainfall during monsoon, which leads to flooding and landslides.

PARAM-ISHAN can also be used for Weather, climate modeling and seismic data processing.

ISRO puts 8 satellites in two orbits

 ISRO has successfully launched PSLV-C-35 injecting India’s SCATSAT-1 in orbit.

 All about it:

  • This is ISRO’s longest PSLV satellite launch mission spread over two hours and and 15 minutes.
  • The 320 tonne PSLV rocket carried 8 satellites. The main cargo will be the 371 kg SCATSAT-1 for ocean and weather related studies which will be placed into a 730 km polar sun synchronous orbit.
  • The other seven satellites will be placed in a 689 km polar orbit.
  • According to ISRO, SCATSAT-1 is a continuity mission for Oceansat-2 scatterometer to provide wind vector data products for weather forecasting, cyclone detection and tracking services to the users.
  • The satellite carries Ku-band scatterometer similar to the one flown onboard Oceansat-2.
  • On board are five foreign satellites: three from Algeria (Alsat-1B 103kg, Alsat-2B 117kg, Alsat-1N 7kg); and one each from Canada (NLS-19, 8kg) and the US (Pathfinder-44kg).

The two other Indian satellites are: Pratham (10kg) built by Indian Institute of Technology – Bombay and Pisat (5.25 kg) from PES University, Bengaluru and its consortium.

World’s largest radio telescope

  • China has unveiled the world’s largest radio telescope.
  • The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) was launched in a mountainous region of China’s Guizhou province.

Like radio telescopes in other parts of the world, FAST will study interstellar molecules related to how galaxies evolve.

India’s first LIGO laboratory to come up in Hingoli, Maharashtra

  • India’s first LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) laboratory will be set up in Aundh in Hingoli district of Maharashtra.
  • It will be third such laboratory in the world and first outside the United States.
  • The existing two laboratories are located in Hanford, Washington and in Livingston, Louisiana.
  • The site at Aundh in Hingoli district has been chosen for carrying out experiments on the ambitious LIGO project that proved existence of gravitational waves.
  • It was selected based on site researches conducted by scientists from Department of Science and Technology (DST).
  • The setup of LIGO-India laboratory will involve construction of 8 km-long beam tube at ultra- high vaccum on a levelled terrain.
  • The Aundh site is suitable flat site for carrying out the experiments as the four kms strips require an unhindered straight and flat site for studying the lasers.
  • The LIGO-India laboratory will help to bring considerable opportunities in cutting edge technology for Indian industries.
  • A MoU to set up the LIGO-India project was signed between the scientists from the US’ National Science Foundation (NSF) and India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the DST in April 2016.
  • Earlier in February 2016, the Union Cabinet had given its in-principle approval to the LIGO-India mega science proposal for research on gravitational waves.

China tests stealth-defeating quantum radar

  • China has claimed that it has successfully developed and tested a radar system that uses quantum entanglement to beat the stealth technology of modern military aircrafts.
  • This first Chinese quantum radar was developed by the Intelligent Perception Technology Laboratory.
  • Prior to it, US was only the country stealth-defeating quantum radar.
  • Quantum radar is a device that uses quantum entanglement photons to provide better detection capabilities than conventional radar systems.
  • The radar system is able to detect a target at a range of 100 kilometers in a real-world environment.
  • The device employs single photon detection technology and was tested in mid-August 2016.
  • It easily tracks targets with a low radar cross section, such as modern aircraft using stealth technology or targets employing active countermeasures to jam or baffle enemy radar.

193 countries sign declaration to stamp out drug-resistant infections

  • The 193 countries of the United Nations (UN) have signed a landmark declaration to rid the world of drug-resistant infections or Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) or superbugs.
  • It is the fourth time a UN declaration has been reached on a health issue, following HIV in 2001, non-communicable diseases in 2011 and Ebola in 2013.
  • The signatory countries now have two years to submit action plan.
  • These submitted plans are expected to address the seriousness and scope of the situation.
  • It will also agree on sustainable, multisectoral approaches to addressing antimicrobial resistance.

What is Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) or superbugs?

  • Antimicrobial resistance happens when microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites change when they are exposed to antimicrobial drugs.
  • These microorganisms are also termed as “superbugs”.
  • As a result, the medicines or drugs become ineffective and infections persist in the body futher increasing the risk of spread to others. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) Threats AMR has become one of the biggest threats to global health and endangers other major priorities, such as human development.
  • All around the world, many common infections have become resistant to antimicrobial medicines used to treat them which resulted in longer illnesses and more deaths.
  • At the same time, not enough new antimicrobial drugs especially antibiotics are being developed to replace older and increasingly ineffective ones.

Americas declared free of measles

  • The Region of the Americas is the first in the world to have eliminated measles, a viral disease that can cause severe health problems, including pneumonia, blindness, brain swelling and even death. This achievement culminates a 22-year effort involving mass vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella throughout the Americas.
  • The declaration of measles’ elimination was made by the International Expert Committee for Documenting and Verifying Measles, Rubella, and Congenital Rubella Syndrome Elimination in the Americas. The announcement came during the 55thDirecting Council of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), which is currently underway and is being attended by ministers of Health from throughout the Americas.
  • Measles is the fifth vaccine-preventable disease to be eliminated from the Americas, after the regional eradication of smallpox in 1971, poliomyelitis in 1994, and rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in 2015.

About Measles 

  • Measles is one of the most contagious diseases and affects children primarily.
  • It is transmitted by airborne droplets or via direct contact with secretions from the nose, mouth, and throat of infected individuals.
  • Symptoms include high fever, generalized rash all over the body, stuffy nose, and reddened eyes.

It can cause serious complications including blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhea, ear infections and pneumonia, particularly in children with nutritional problems and in immunocompromised patients.

Ice cloud over Saturn’s largest moon discovered

  • This ice cloud goes against everything that is known about the way clouds form on Titan.
  • Located in Titan’s stratosphere, the cloud is made of a compound of carbon and nitrogen known as dicyanoacetylene.
  • This is an ingredient in the chemical cocktail that colours the giant moon’s hazy, brownishorange atmosphere.
  • What has puzzled scientists ever since is that they detected less than one percent of the dicyanoacetylene gas needed for the cloud to condense.
  • Researchers found a large, high-altitude cloud made of the same frozen chemical. and when it comes to the vapour form of this chemical, CIRS reported that Titan’s stratosphere is as dry as a desert.
  • The puzzling appearance of the ice cloud seemingly out of thin air prompted the scientists to suggest that a different process than previously thought — possibly similar to one seen over Earth’s poles could be forming clouds on Saturn’s moon Titan.

Clouds made of chlorine bearing chemicals on earth called polar stratosphere clouds have a similar mechanism by which they work.

Nobel Prize in Medicine awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi

The 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi “for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy.” 

  • What is Autophagy?
  • Autophagy is essentially the body’s internal recycling program – scrap cells are hunted down and the useful parts are stripped out to generate energy or create new cells.
  • It is a crucial process to prevent cancerous growths, and, by maintaining a healthy metabolism, helps protect against conditions like diabetes.

Contributions of Yoshinori Ohsumi:

  • Difficulties in studying the phenomenon meant that little was known until, in a series of brilliant experiments in the early 1990’s, Yoshinori Ohsumi used baker’s yeast to identify genes essential for autophagy. He then went on to elucidate the underlying mechanisms for autophagy in yeast and showed that similar sophisticated machinery is used in our cells.
  • Ohsumi’s discoveries led to a new paradigm in our understanding of how the cell recycles its content. His discoveries opened the path to understanding the fundamental importance of autophagy in many physiological processes, such as in the adaptation to starvation or response to infection. Mutations in autophagy genes can cause disease, and the autophagic process is involved in several conditions including cancer and neurological disease.


Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Key facts:

  • The 2016 Nobel laureates in Chemistry have miniaturised machines and taken chemistry to a new dimension.
  • They have developed molecules with controllable movements, which can perform a task when energy is added.
  • The development of computing demonstrates how the miniaturisation of technology can lead to a revolution.
  • These molecular machines will most likely be used in the development of things such as new materials, sensors and energy storage systems.

What are Molecular Machines?

Molecular machines are single-molecules that behave much like the machines people encounter every day: They have controllable movements and can perform a task with the input of energy.

Examples include a tiny elevator that goes up and down with changes in pH and a super-small motor that spins in one direction when exposed to light and heat.

GSAT-18, ISRO’s latest communication satellite, launched successfully

Marking another success for the space agency, ISRO’s latest communication satellite GSAT-18 has successfully been launched from Arianespace’s European launcher Ariane-5 VA-231 in French Guiana.

More details on GSAT-18:

  • GSAT-18 is the 20th satellite from ISRO to be launched by the European space agency and this mission was the 280th for Arianespace launcher family.
  • The main aim of GSAT-18 is to provide telecommunications services. It would strengthen ISRO’s present fleet of 14 operational telecom satellites.
  • GSAT-18’s mission life is around 15 years, and carries Ku-band beacon to help in accurately pointing ground antennas towards the satellite.
  • Television, telecommunication, VSAT and digital satellite news gathering are a few of the services that GSAT 18 will support in coming days.
  • The satellite carries 48 communication transponders in C-band, upper extended C-band and Ku-band for providing various services to the country.
  • The GSAT-18 has been placed in a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).
  • In the coming days, ISRO will perform the orbit raising manoeuvres to place the GSAT-18 in the Geostationary Orbit (36,000 km above the equator).



It is India’s Remote and High-Altitude research Station opened recently in Himalaya.

Key facts:

  • It is Indian government’s initiatives to better study and quantify the Himalayan glacier responses towards the climate change.
  • It is located at a remote region in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh.
  • It has been established by the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR), Goa, under the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
  • The station houses many instruments to quantify the glacier melting and its relation to changing climate. Some of the instruments that are available at this research facility include, Automatic Weather Stations for weather monitoring, water level recorder for quantifying the glacier melt and ground penetrating radar to know the thickness of glaciers.
  • The researchers would be using this as a base for undertaking surveys using Terrestrial Laser Scanners (TLS) and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) that would digitize the glacier motion and snow cover variations with exceptional precision.

Human hair used to produce cheaper cathodes for solar cells

  • Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Kolkata have used human hair to produce cost-effective, metal-free cathodes for use in solar cells.
    • This is the first instance where a bio-waste-derived electrode has been used as cathode in a quantum dot sensitised solar cell device.

How is it done?

  • Producing graphitic porous carbon cathode using human hair is simple, quick and inexpensive. Unlike in the case of other synthetic porous carbons, no physical or chemical activation process or templates are required to produce the pores of 2-50 nm diameter.
  • The porosity, along with high surface area to volume ratio, plays an important role in adsorption-desorption of electrolyte.
  • The cleaned and dry human hair is first treated with sulphuric acid at 165 degrees C for 25 minutes to achieve precarbonisation. It is then heated to different temperatures in the presence of an inert gas for six hours to carbonise and bring better electrical conductivity for efficient charge transfer.

What are the benefits:

  • The cathode shows an impressive performance in converting visible sunlight to electricity much higher than commercially available activated carbon cathodes and is comparable with commonly used cathodes made of platinum metal and metal sulfides.
  • Besides its higher efficiency to convert visible sunlight to electricity, the cathode was found to generate high open-circuit voltage, which is at par with conventional platinum and activated carbon cathodes. Thereby, the power conversion efficiencies can also be enhanced.
  • They also have the potential to bring down the cost of solar cells.

Self-powered UV photodetector charges energy storage devices 

  • Researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, have developed a cost-effective, high-performance, self-powered UV photodetector that can use the harvested optical energy for direct self-charging of energy storage devices such as supercapacitor.
  • The researchers developed the photodetector by integrating semiconducting vanadium doped zinc oxide (VZnO) nanoflakes with a conducting polymer.
  • Zinc oxide (ZnO), the base material for UV detection, can be doped with vanadium to produce photodetectors that are self-powered. When doped with vanadium, the microstructure of ZnO changes from nanorods to closely-packed nanoflakes, causing an increase in the surface area to the volume of the material.
  • The nanoflakes are 80% more porous than nanorods. The UV light that gets into the pores undergoes multiple reflections and finally gets absorbed.
  • The VZnO nanoflakes are further annealed (heated and allowed to cool slowly) in the presence of hydrogen gas at 350 degree C (hydrogenated) to increase the conductivity and reduce the recombination of photo-generated charge carriers.
  • The vanadium-doped zinc oxide nanoflake structure has 98% light-harvesting efficiency, which is much higher than the 84% seen in zinc oxide nanorods.
  • The photodetector has superior performance in terms of faster detection of photo signals in the order of milliseconds even when UV light intensity is low.
  • It can be used for operating electronic devices in the absence of external power source.

Mining Surveillance System 

The government has launched the Mining Surveillance System (MSS).

  • It uses space technology for curbing illegal mining activity in the country.
  • It is a satellite-based monitoring system which aims to establish a regime of responsive mineral administration, through public participation, by curbing instances of illegal mining activity through automatic remote sensing detection technology.
  • Ministry of Mines, through Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM), has developed the MSS, in coordination with Bhaskaracharya Institute for Space Applications and Geo-informatics (BISAG), Gandhinagar and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY).
  • Developed under the Digital India Programme, MSS is one of the first such surveillance systems developed in the world using space technology.
  • The current system of monitoring of illegal mining activity is based on local complaints and unconfirmed information.
  • There is no robust mechanism to monitor the action taken on such complaints.

Manned mission by China

  • China has successfully launched longest-ever manned mission by taking two astronauts into the orbit. They were launched on board of Shenzhou-11 spacecraft.
  • The spacecraft was put into orbit by a Long March-2F carrier rocket.
  • Both astronauts will spend a month aboard an experimental space laboratory Tiangong-2.
  • During the mission, they will conduct aerospace medical experiments, space science experiments and in-orbit maintenance with human participation.

They will also undertake ultrasound tests during space travel for the first time and cultivate plants in space.

Union Government constitutes Munialappa Committee to monitor bird flu situation

  • The Union Agricultural Ministry has constituted a High-Level Committee to monitor the bird flu situation and help state governments take steps to contain the disease.
  • The High-Level Committee will be headed by Joint Commissioner in the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairy and Fisheries (DADF) Munialappa.

Key Facts:

  • The committee will have representatives from the Union Ministry of Health, Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Department of Agriculture Research and Extension (DARE) and the Delhi Government.
  • Besides monitoring the situation, the committee will assist the state governments in taking steps to contain the spread of avian influenza.
  • The state government will be assisted by the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD), Indian Veterinary Research Institute and four regional laboratories. In case of an emergency response, they will get samples tested.


The committee was constituted after mortality among the birds in National Zoological Park, Delhi NCR and other parts of the country due to Avian Influenza Virus (H5N1) was found.

What is Avian influenza?

  • Avian influenza, commonly called bird flu is an infectious viral disease of birds. Thus, it is zoonotic disease.
  • It is an infectious viral disease of birds and can sometimes spread to domestic poultry and cause large-scale outbreaks of serious disease.
  • Human Infections: Most avian influenza viruses do not infect humans. There is no evidence that the disease can be spread to people through properly cooked food. However A(H7N9) and A(H5N1) virus strains have caused serious infections in people. The infections in humans have been associated with direct or indirect contact with infected live or dead poultry.
  • Bird flu symptoms in Humans: Fever, sore throat, cough, muscle, body aches, nausea. It can lead to pneumonia, severe breathing problems and acute respiratory distress syndrome.
  • Treatment: Controlling the spread of disease in animals is the first step in decreasing risks to humans.
  • Human infections with bird flu viruses usually can be treated with the same prescription drugs that are used to treat human seasonal flu viruses.

CO2 level reaches record high in 2016: WMO

  • According to the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin level of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the atmosphere has reached a record high. globally averaged concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere reached to 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in 2015.
  • It is expected to surge again to new records in 2016 on the back of the very powerful El Niño event.

Key Facts:

  • This is for the first time CO2 levels have reached the 400 ppm barrier on a global average basis for the entire year.
  • Besides, longest-established GHGs monitoring station at Mauna Loa, Hawaii predicts that CO2 concentrations will stay above 400 ppm for whole of 2016 and not dip below that level for many generations.
  • There was a 37% increase in radiative forcing (the warming effect on our climate) because of long-lived GHGs such as CO2, methane and nitrous oxide (N2O) released from industrial, agricultural and domestic activities between 1990 and 2015.

Relation between CO2 emissions and El Niño event:

  • According to WMO, the growth spurt in CO2 was fuelled by the El Niño event, which started in 2015 and had a strong impact well into 2016.
    • The El Niño event had triggered droughts in tropical regions and reduced the capacity of “sinks” like forests, vegetation and the oceans to absorb CO2.
    • These sinks currently absorb about half of CO2 emissions but now there is a risk that they may become saturated.
    • Once these sinks become saturated it will increase the fraction of emitted CO2 which stays in the atmosphere.

About World Meteorological Organization (WMO):

WMO is an intergovernmental organization and specialised agency of the UN for meteorology (weather and climate), operational hydrology and related geophysical sciences. It is a member of the United Nations Development Group.
• Established: It had originated from the International Meteorological Organization (IMO), which was founded in 1873.
• Membership: 191 Member States and Territories.
• Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.

3D-printed bone implant can dissolve in body

  • Scientists have developed a new type of 3D-printed polymeric bone implant with increased implant survival rate in body, as well as the ability to organically degrade and thus subsequently be replaced by natural bone tissues.
  • Researchers at National University of Science and Technology (NUST) MISIS in Moscow, developed the implant with shape memory that can be used without fittings and blocking devices during surgery.
  • One of the new implant’s characteristics is increased implant survival rate in body tissues, and the ability to organically degrade and thus be replaced by natural bone tissues, researchers said.
  • “Young scientists from the Centre of Composite Materials at NUST MISIS have created the prototype of a new polymeric implant it ‘unfolds’ at a certain temperature during the surgery
  • The implant can be printed on a 3D printer at the selected dimensions, compressed twice in protective, biodegradable shelling, heated during the surgery and eventually become securely fixed into the renovated area of bone tissue without using metal blocking devices and fasteners traditionally used in transplantology.
  • A porous sample made from the composite is capable of compressing twice, and then returning to its original shape.

Additional Info:

  • The material is biocompatible
  • it dissolves in the body without doing any damage.
  • The implant has task geometry and high porosity and does not require additional treatment.

It is tightly fixed in bone defects and owing to the material’s properties and the use of patient’s own cells it is smoothly replaced by organic tissue.

What Are Brown Dwarfs;

  • Brown dwarfs are star like objects which have just failed to become main sequence stars.
  • They constitute 15 per cent of stellar object
  • They occupy the wide band of masses (between 13 and 75 Jupiter masses) between the lightest of stars and the heaviest of gas giant planets.
  • They are not massive enough to burn the hydrogen they contain, during the first few million years of their existence, they give off energy by burning deuterium (a heavier isotope of hydrogen) and can be mistaken for low mass stars. These are candidates that can host habitable planets.

M dwarfs, or red dwarfs: not favorable for life

  • They are more common than brown dwarfs among the stellar population in our galaxy.
  • These red dwarfs are very active and also have intense magnetic fields which can cause them to give off flares, x-rays and ultraviolet rays.

Because of this, even if they are shown to host planets in the habitable zone, the conditions on these planets may not be favourable for life.

IIL develops CYSVAXworld’s first vaccine to fight against tapeworms

The Indian Immunologicals Limited (IIL) has launched CYSVAX, world’s first vaccine to fight against Taenia solium Tapeworms in pigs. The vaccine has significant potential benefit to reduce the incidence of epilepsy in humans.

Key Fact:

  • The CYSVAX is a recombinant porcine (Pigs) Cysticercosis Vaccine. The vaccine has potential to break the Cysticercosis disease parasite’s life-cycle in pigs which is considered to be one of the important reasons for epilepsy in humans.

What is Cysticercosis?

  • Cysticercosis is a parasitic disease caused by pork tapeworm named Taenia solium. WHO has designated it as one of 17 Neglected tropical diseases worldwide.
  • It is a zoonotic parasite disease involving pigs as intermediate hosts because it is caused by ingesting the eggs of the tapeworm Taenia solium.
  • Humans are usually infected by the accidental consumption of eggs present in the under-cooked pork, vegetables and greens that have been improperly washed.
  • In humans it develops into cysts in central nervous system and cause Neuro-cysticercosis, considered as one of the important reasons for epilepsy in humans.

What are reasons for the spread of disease?

  • The primary breeding grounds for tapeworms Taenia solium are open defecation and unhygienic pig rearing. Cases of Cysticercosis in India have been reported in North Uttar Pradesh and North-Eastern states.

About Indian Immunologicals Limited (IIL):

  • IIL is Hyderabad-based subsidiary of National Dairy Development Board (NDDB).

It is a market leader in veterinary biologicals and is also big player in animal and human healthcare sector in country.

Protein-enriched rice variety developed by IGKV Chattisgarh

Researchers from Indira Gandhi Krishi Vishwavidyalaya (IGKV), Chattisgarh have developed a protein-enriched rice variety.

The new developed rice variety has over 10% protein content, which is 3% more than what is found in any popular variety and has 30 PPM (parts per million) zinc content.

Key facts:

  • The protein-enriched rice variety was developed by researchers from IGKV’s Department of Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology.
  • They had worked for seven years to develop the variety of rice that is rich in protein along with high zinc content.
  • This protein rice variety will play a crucial role in addressing issues of protein deficiencies and it will serve as a boon for malnourished population, especially children, in tribal-dominated Chhattisgarh.

Zinc-enriched variety of rice:

  • Earlier in May 2015, scientists from Indira Gandhi Agriculture University (IGAU), Raipur (Chhattisgarh) had developed a high zinc-enriched called “Chhattisgarh Zinc Rice-1”. It was the first zinc biofortified rice variety developed in India.


  • Zinc and other mineral content are not lost upon polishing.
  • The rice has long self-life and used after keeping it for long time. Even it tastes just as good as the conventional variety.

Why is zinc so important to the body?

  • Zinc is important to the body because over 300 enzymes in our body use it as an essential component in their action.
  • Zinc is essential in supporting our immune system, in synthesising and degrading DNA, in wound healing and several other activities.
  • Our body requires very small amount of Zinc, but if the level falls down to below normal it may result into growth retardation, diarrhoea, eye and skin lesions and loss of appetite.


As per a survey conducted in 2015 very high rate of malnutrition was found among preschool children in tribal areas across Chhattisgarh which is considered rice bowl of the country. The survey had showed that over five lakh children in the state are underweight and stunted growth especially in the tribal districts.

Key facts  Japanese Encephalitis:

  • Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is a flavivirus related to dengue, yellow fever and West Nile viruses, and is spread by mosquitoes.
  • JEV is the main cause of viral encephalitis in many countries of Asia with an estimated 68 000 clinical cases every year.
  • Although symptomatic Japanese encephalitis (JE) is rare, the case-fatality rate among those with encephalitis can be as high as 30%. Permanent neurologic or psychiatric sequelae can occur in 30%–50% of those with encephalitis.
  • 24 countries in the WHO South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions have endemic JEV transmission, exposing more than 3 billion people to risks of infection.
  • There is no cure for the disease. Treatment is focused on relieving severe clinical signs and supporting the patient to overcome the infection.
  • Safe and effective vaccines are available to prevent JE. WHO recommends that JE vaccination be integrated into national immunization schedules in all areas where JE disease is recognized as a public health issue.
  • Japanese encephalitis virus JEV is the most important cause of viral encephalitis in Asia. It is a mosquito-borne flavivirus, and belongs to the same genus as dengue, yellow fever and West Nile viruses.

The first case of Japanese encephalitis viral disease (JE) was documented in 1871 in Japan.

Signs and symptoms

  • Most JEV infections are mild (fever and headache) or without apparent symptoms, but approximately 1 in 250 infections results in severe clinical illness. Severe disease is characterized by rapid onset of high fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, seizures, spastic paralysis and ultimately death. The case-fatality rate can be as high as 30% among those with disease symptoms.

Of those who survive, 20%–30% suffer permanent intellectual, behavioural or neurological problems such as paralysis, recurrent seizures or the inability to speak.


  • 24 countries in the WHO South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions have JEV transmission risk, which includes more than 3 billion people.
  • JEV is transmitted to humans through bites from infected mosquitoes of the Culexspecies (mainly Culex tritaeniorhynchus). Humans, once infected, do not develop sufficient viraemia to infect feeding mosquitoes. The virus exists in a transmission cycle between mosquitoes, pigs and/or water birds (enzootic cycle). The disease is predominantly found in rural and periurban settings, where humans live in closer proximity to these vertebrate hosts.

In most temperate areas of Asia, JEV is transmitted mainly during the warm season, when large epidemics can occur. In the tropics and subtropics, transmission can occur year-round but often intensifies during the rainy season and pre-harvest period in rice-cultivating regions.

Why the Nobel Prize winning discovery of autophagy matters

  • Nobel laureate Yoshinori Ohsumi’s work on mechanisms underlying autophagy — a fundamental process of degrading and recycling cellular components — has generated much interest in the science behind the biological process. In this article, we will aim to explain the significance of this discovery and the earlier work in this area.

What is autophagy?

  • The word autophagy originates from Greek words auto, meaning “self”, and phagein, meaning “to eat”, according to the release put up on the Nobel Prize website. The concept emerged during the 1960s, when researchers first observed that the cell could destroy its own contents by enclosing it in membranes – autophagosomes – for degradation.

Scientists discovered during the 1950s that the cell contained specialised compartments, with enzymes that digest proteins, carbohydrates and lipids. These compartments also helped with degradation of cellular constituents. During the 1970s and 1980s, researchers explained the working of a system used to degrade proteins.

World’s first three-parent baby boy born in Mexico

  • A Jordanian couple became proud parents of the world’s first three-parent baby boy, born in Mexico. The feat was achieved with the help of a new albeit controversial fertility technique that incorporates DNA of three people in an embryo.
  • The successful birth of the baby boy has opened up a new window of possibility for parents with rare genetic mutations to have healthy baby.
  • The technique also known as mitochondrial donation or mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT) has helped the couple have their child as the mother had earlier suffered four pregnancy losses.

Here is everything that you should know about the first three parent baby:

  • The mother in this case had genes with Leigh Syndrome, which is a fatal genetic disorder that affects the brain, muscles and nerves of the growing infant. Earlier, she had delivered two children one of whom survived less than a year and another lived only for six days, as a result of the syndrome
  • To ensure the birth of a healthy baby the doctors used ‘spindle nuclear transfer’, which involves adding some genes from a donor woman to the mother’s egg and then fertilizing the egg with the father’s sperm to create an embryo
  • This embryo was then implanted into the mother and the child was born in April this year, nine moths from the day of implantation
  • The boy’s mitochondria was tested and was found to have less than 1 per cent  of mitochondria which carried the mutation .

What is mitochondria?

  • Mitochondria are structures within cells that create energy to run the cell. They carry 37 genes of their own and  are passed intact from the mother to child through the egg.
  • Irrespective of a person’s gender, they inherit the mitochondrial DNA from their mothers, who in turn got it from their mothers and so on.
  • However, there are times when a woman may be born with a mutation in her mitochondrial DNA. Though genetic defects may not cause negative health effects for her, they could cause a mild or severe disorder if passed on to a child.

What is mitochondrial replacement therapy?

  • It is a technique in which the defective mitochondria of a mother is replaced by a donor’s healthy mitochondria
  • With the help of Invitro fertilisation technique (IVF), the egg is then fertilized with the father’s sperm. Hence, the chances of the embryo being affected by the defect is removed
  • There are two types of mitochondrial donation techniques namely maternal spindle transfer and pro nuclear transfer

The technique helps parents get a chance of having a healthy baby which is over 99 per cent genetically matched to them and at the same time is free of the mitochondrial syndrome.

Caffeine-based drugs may halt Parkinson’s progress

  • Scientists have developed novel caffeine-based chemical compounds that show promise in preventing the progression of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Parkinson’s disease attacks the nervous system, causing uncontrolled shakes, muscle stiffness, and slow, imprecise movement, chiefly in middle-aged and elderly people.

Parkinson’s disease is caused by the loss of brain cells (neurons) that produce dopamine, an essential neurotransmitter that allows neurons to “talk” to each other.

Thailand confirms SE Asia’s first Zika-linked birth defects

  • Authorities in Thailand have confirmed that two cases of babies with microcephaly, or abnormally small heads, were caused by the Zika virus, the first such cases found in Southeast Asia.
  • The World Health Organization urged countries in the region to take stronger measures to contain the virus. The U.N. agency said the cases are the first of Zika-associated microcephaly in Southeast Asia.
  • “Zika virus infection is a serious threat to the health and wellbeing of a pregnant woman and her unborn child. Countries across the region must continue to strengthen measures aimed at preventing, detecting and responding to Zika virus transmission.
  • Zika generally causes a mild flu-like illness, but a major outbreak in Brazil last year revealed that it can result in severe birth defects when pregnant women are infected.

Spread by mosquitoes

  • The disease is spread primarily by mosquitoes, and WHO urged private citizens as well as governments to take strict mosquito control measures.
  • Mosquitoes are a constant concern in Thailand because they also transmit malaria, dengue fever and chikungunya.
  • Statistics issued by Thai health officials show more than 300 confirmed Zika cases since the start of the year.
  • On Thursday, U.S. health officials advised pregnant women to postpone travel to 11 countries in Southeast Asia because of Zika outbreaks. The advisory covered Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Maldives, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Zika has existed in some areas of Southeast Asia for years, and some residents may be immune. But it said a number of U.S. travelers have become infected in the region in the last year.
  • WHO said travelers to areas with Zika virus outbreaks “should seek up-to-date advice on potential risks and appropriate measures to reduce the possibility of exposure to mosquito bites and sexual transmission of Zika.” But it advised pregnant women “not to travel to areas of ongoing Zika virus transmission.”

“Pregnant women’s sexual partners living in or returning from areas with Zika virus outbreaks should ensure safer sex or abstain from sex for the duration of their partner’s pregnancy.

China’s space lab launches micro-satellite

  • China’s experimental space lab Tiangong-2 orbiting the Earth with two astronauts on board has successfully launched a micro-satellite, roughly the size of a desktop printer.
  • Weighing 47 kilogrammes, the micro satellite has a series of visible light cameras, including a 25 megapixel camera and wide-angle imagers.
  • Its mission is to take photographs of Tiangong II and the Shenzhou 11 spacecraft, which docked with the lab on Wednesday.
  • The Tiangong II space laboratory released its companion satellite, Banxing-2, at 7:31 am local time Sunday. The satellite, which the media has nicknamed “Selfie Stick”, also has an infrared camera that is temperature-sensitive, said Chen Hongyu, chief engineer of the satellite programme and a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Micro-satellite Innovation Institute.

About Banxing-2:

  • The micro-satellite Banxing-2 is roughly the size of a desktop printer and the media has nicknamed “Selfie Stick”.
  • It weighs 47 kilogrammes. It has series of visible light cameras, including a 25 megapixel camera and wide-angle imagers. It also has an infrared camera that is temperature-sensitive.
  • Its mission is to take photographs of Tiangong II and the Shenzhou 11 spacecraft, which has been docked with the lab.
  • The micro-satellite has three solar panels which generates enough power to adjust its orbit to shoot pictures of the lab and spacecraft.
  • Its predecessor, Banxing-1, accomplished the same mission for Shenzhou VII in 2008.
  • Banxing-2 is new model of its predecessor Banxing-1 which had accomplished the same mission for Shenzhou VII in 2008. However Banxing-1 is smaller and has a higher capacity.


They weigh around 500 to 100 kilograms. They are usually cheaper, faster and more advanced than traditional satellites. The commercial potential has attracted much attention from businesses.

Union Government caps prices of 24 essential drugs

  • The Union Government has capped the prices of 24 essential drugs used for treatment of cancer, HIV, bacterial infections, anxiety and cardiac conditions.
  • In this regard, the Drug pricing regulator National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has issued an order. It revised ceiling prices of 24 scheduled formulations of schedule-I under Drugs (Price Control) Amendment Order, 2016.
  • With this cost of these 24 essential drugs has been reduced by an average of around 25 per cent.
  • Besides, NPPA also capped the retail price of 31 formulations under Drug Prices Control Order (DPCO), 2013.

·The Union Government through NPPA fixes prices of essential drugs based on simple average of all medicines in a particular therapeutic segment, having sales of more than 1%.
·Besides, it also monitors the maximum retail prices of all the drugs and companies are allowed to hike prices of non-scheduled drugs by up to 10% in a year.
· NPPA decides the ceiling prices essential medicines under The Drug (Prices Control) Order 2013.  So far it covers 680 formulations.

About National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA):

  • NPPA is nodal government regulatory agency that controls the prices of pharmaceutical drugs in India. It functions under the aegis of Union Ministry of Chemical and Fertiliser.
    · It advices Union Government in matters relate to drug policies and pricing. Besides, it also renders advice to the Union Government on changes/ revisions in the drug policy.

What are Essential medicines?
§Essential medicines are those that satisfy the priority health care needs of the country’s
§They are listed with reference to the levels of healthcare namely primary, secondary and tertiary.
§ They are generally based on the country’s disease burden, priority health concerns, affordability concerns etc.
§ In India National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) formed in 2011 decides the essential medicines. The list is prepared by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
§ The NLEM is a dynamic list and is reviewed every 3 years to include or exclude drugs as relevant to the newest medical innovations and aligned to the current market competition.


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