Daily Current Affairs | 15th June 2020

New Drug for Amoebiasis in Near Future

Recently, researchers from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) have developed new drug molecules against the protozoa ‘Entamoeba histolytica’ that causes amoebiasis.

  • The Protozoa and High Oxygen Level:
    • The protozoa isanaerobic or microaerophilic in nature such that it cannot survive high concentrations of oxygen.
      • Anaerobic organisms are those who exist in the absence of free oxygen.
      • microaerophilicatmosphere is ideal for a microorganism that can grow under reduced oxygen and increased carbon dioxide levels.
    • However, during infection, it faces a high surge of oxygeninside the human body. The organism synthesizes large amounts of cysteine to counter oxidative stress.
  • Synthesis of Cysteine:
    • This pathogen deploys cysteineas one of the essential molecules in its defence mechanism against high oxygen levels. It expresses two crucial enzymes for synthesizing cysteine.
      • Cysteines are enzymes that degrade proteins in the body.
      • Cysteine biosynthesis is crucial for the survival of E. histolytica and for similar protozoan parasites.
    • JNU Research:
      • Researchers have characterized and determined the molecular structures of both the crucial enzymes.
      • They have also successfully screened for potent inhibitors for one of the enzymes, O-acetyl L-serine sulfhydrylase (OASS).
      • Some of these inhibitors can check the growth of this organism with high efficacyby targeting their pathways.
      • The identified molecules can lead to thedevelopment of drug molecules.

Protozoa

  • Protozoans are the single-celled eukaryotes, either free-living or parasitic,which feed on organic matter such as other microorganisms or organic tissues and debris.
    • Eukaryotesare organisms whose cells have a nucleus enclosed within membranes, unlike prokaryotes, which have no membrane-bound organelles.
    • parasite is an organismthat lives on or in a host and gets its food from or at the expense of its host. E.g. plasmodium parasite which causes malaria.
  • Habitat:Mostly they are aerobic (with oxygen) but some are anaerobic (without oxygen) and present in the rumen or human intestine.
  • Size and Shape:The size and shape of Protozoa vary greatly, from microbial (1µm) to large enough and can be seen by the naked eye.
  • Nutrition:Protozoans are heterotrophs and have holozoic nutrition.
    • Holozoic nutritioncan be defined as a method of nutrition which involves the ingestion of some complex organic substances (such as parts of a plant or animal) that may be in the solid or the liquid form.

Entamoeba histolytica

  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO)Entamoeba histolyticais the third-leading cause of morbidity and mortality due to parasitic disease in humans.
    • Predominantly infecting humans and other primates,  histolyticais estimated to infect about 35-50 million people worldwide.
    • Aparasitic disease is an infectious disease caused or transmitted by a parasite. E.g. Malaria.
  • It causesamoebiasis or amoebic dysentery, which is highly prevalent in developing countries.

Amoebiasis

  • It is a disease caused by the parasiteEntamoeba histolytica.
  • Amoebiasis infection is most common in tropical areaswith untreated water. E.g. India.
  • It spreads through drinking or eating uncooked food,such as fruit, that may have been washed in contaminated local water.
  • If symptoms occur, they may be mild and include cramping and diarrhoea.
  • It can be treated through antibiotics.

 

UK Announces ‘Jet Zero’ Plan to Drive Down Aviation Emissions

Recently, the United Kingdom (U.K.) announced a ‘Jet Zero’ plan to bring down its aviation emissions.

  • Aim:The Jet Zero aims to bring down greenhouse gas emissions from aviation to make carbon-free transatlantic flights possible within a generation.
    • A transatlantic flight is theflight of an aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe, Africa, or the Middle East to North America, Central America, or South America, or vice versa.
  • Jet Zero Council:A group called ‘Jet Zero Council’ has been formed by the U.K. government by bringing together leaders from the aviation sector, environmental groups and government.
    • This group has been given charge for making net zero emissions possiblefor future flights.
  • Challenges:To achieve its target of a net-zero emissions economy by 2050, it is important to cut transport emissions.
    • Aviation emissions currently account for more than 2% of global greenhouse gases, and have risen by 70% since 2005.
    • The International Civil Aviation Organizationforecasts that the emissions will rise another 300% by 2050 in the absence of measures to bring them down.
  • The U.K. government isalso funding Velocys (aviation biofuels making company) in support of its plans to build a major jet biofuel plant in Lincolnshire.

NOTE:

  • Net-zero emissions means doing away with fossil fuels and other sources of emissions wherever possible. It also involves any emissions that are balanced by absorbing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere.

 

Information Fusion Centre for Indian Ocean Region

The Indian Navy set up the IFC-IOR in December 2018 within the premises of the Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) in Gurugram to track maritime movements in the region.

  • IMAC is located in Gurugramand is the main centre of the Indian Navy for coastal surveillance and monitoring.
  • IMAC is a joint initiative of Indian Navy, Coast Guard and Bharat Electronics Ltdand functions under the National Security Adviser (NSA).
  • IFC is thesingle point centre linking all the coastal radar chains to generate a seamless real-time picture of the nearly 7,500 km coastline.
  • Francebecame the first country to deploy a LO at the IFC-IOR followed by the USA and several other countries including Australia, Japan and the UK have announced their intention to post LOs.
  • It coordinates with similar centresacross the globe which include:
    • Virtual Regional Maritime Traffic Centre (VRMTC)
    • Maritime Security Centre-Horn of Africa(MSCHOA)
    • Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery(ReCAAP)
    • Information Fusion Centre-Singapore (IFC-SG)
    • International Maritime Bureau-Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB-PRC)

Road ahead

  • India’s engagement with the Western Indian Ocean will facilitate collective engagement with the islands there, which are becoming strategically significant.
  • Given China’s growing presence in the region, India will be able to increase its naval presence and gain support for its maritime projects across the Indo-Pacific.
  • India’s consultative, democratic and equitable leadership can help achieve the security and sustainable growth to all in the region.

 

India looks to deploy naval liaisons at Madagascar, Abu Dhabi for information exchange

India is planning to post Naval Liaison Officers (LOs) at the Regional Maritime Information Fusion Centre (RMIFC) in Madagascar and the European Maritime Awareness in the Strait of Hormuz (EMASOH) in Abu Dhabi for improved Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA).

  • This move comes after India joined the Indian Ocean Commission(IOC) as Observer in March 2020 along with Japan and the United Nations.
  • The move aims to improve linkages of the Navy’s Information Fusion Centre for Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) in Gurugram with other IFCs and become the repository for all maritime data in the IOR.
  • India is working closely with France, who is a pre-eminent member of IOC, to post a Naval LO at the RMIFC in Madagascar.
    • TheRMFIC functions under the aegis of the IOC and is designed to deepen maritime domain awareness by monitoring maritime activities and promoting information sharing and exchange.
  • The Navy LO is expected to be posted at EMASOH by July and at the RMIFC by September or October 2020.
    • India has a LO at the IFC in Singapore for over four years now.
  • Indian Ocean Commission
    • It is an intergovernmental body and regional forum created in 1984 to protect the interests of the western Indian Ocean islands.
    • It consists of Madagascar, Comoros, La Réunion(French overseas territory), Mauritius and 
    • IOC has five observers which are China, European Union (EU), Malta and International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF), India, Japan and the UN.
      • OIF is a 54 french speaking nations collective.
    • European Maritime Awareness in the Strait of Hormuz
      • France started EMASOH with the aim to monitor maritime activity and guarantee freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.
      • It is based at the French naval base in Abu Dhabi(UAE).
      • It was declared operational by the French Ministry of Armed Forces in February 2020.
    • India’s Other Initiatives:
      • To strengthen the naval forces and surveillance, India has signed a series of white shipping agreementsLogistics Support Agreements(LSA) and maritime cooperation agreements with several countries, recently.
        • For example, India Australia Virtual Summitannounced a joint declaration on a shared vision for maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific in which they agreed to deepen navy-to-navy cooperation and strengthen MDA in the Indo-Pacific region through enhanced exchange of information.
      • In 2015, India unveiled it’s strategic vision for the Indian Ocean i.e. Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR). It is an increasing recognition of the increasing importance of maritime security, maritime commons and cooperation.
        • Through SAGAR, India seeks to deepen economic and security cooperation with its maritime neighbours and assist in building their maritime security capabilities.

 

India After ‘requests’ from many countries, RBI may take payment system abroad

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is exploring the possibility of expanding its payment system abroad, following the requests from several countries.

  • Requests for Payment System:
    • The RBI has received requests from abroad for implementing its payment systems like Cheque Truncation System (CTS), National Electronic Fund Transfer (NEFT), Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and messaging solutions.
  • Reason:
    • The availability of low cost innovative digital payment products in India has led to many countries expressing their interest in Indian payment system.
  • Availability of Payment System Outside India:
    • Currently, there are no RBI authorised payment system operators providing payment services outside India.
    • However, there is cross-country cooperation with Bhutan with respect to CTS, National Automated Clearing House (NACH) and NEFT. NEFT is also available for one-way transfers from India to Nepal.
  • Scope of Payment System Outside India:
    • According to RBI there is scope for enhancing global outreach of its payment systems, including remittances, through active participation and co-operation in international and regional fora by collaborating and contributing to standard setting.
    • Efforts have been made to increase and widen the scope, coverage and usage of RuPay card scheme andUPI to enhance their brand value internationally.
  • Issues Involved:
    • Overdependence on the foreign funds (through digital payments) may lead to possible liquidity risk issues in India.
    • Different time zones may pose a risk in digital payments.
  • Digital Payments and India:
    • India’s growing use of retail digital payments, indicates a shift in the relationship with cash.
    • According to the RBI, the digital payments in the country have witnessed a growth of 61% and 19% in terms of volume and value, respectively.
    • The value of digital payments to Gross Domestic Product(GDP) has also increased from 660% in 2014-15 to 862% in 2018-19.
    • The Point of sale (PoS) terminals grew at a high pace of 35%, contrastingly the deployment of ATMs has grown at a low pace (4%).

Unified Payments Interface

  • It is an advanced version ofImmediate Payment Service (IMPS)– round–the-clock funds transfer service to make cashless payments faster, easier and smoother.
  • UPI is a system that powers multiple bank accounts into a single mobile application (of any participating bank), merging several banking features, seamless fund routing & merchant payments into one hood.
  • National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI)launched UPI with 21 member banks in 2016.

National Electronic Funds Transfer

  • National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT)is a nation-wide payment system facilitating one-to-one funds transfer. Under this Scheme, individuals, firms and corporates can electronically transfer funds from any bank branch to any individual, firm or corporate having an account with any other bank branch in the country participating in the Scheme.
  • There is no limit – either minimum or maximum – on the amount of funds that could be transferred using NEFT.
  • However, the maximum amount per transaction is limited to ₹ 50,000/- for cash-based remittances within India and also for remittances to Nepal under the Indo-Nepal Remittance Facility Scheme.

RuPay Card Scheme

  • RuPay is the first-of-its-kind domestic Debit and Credit Card payment network of India.
  • The name, derived from the words ‘Rupee and ‘Payment’, emphasises that it is India’s very own initiative for Debit and Credit Card payments.
  • The card can also be used for transactions in Singapore, Bhutan, UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Cheque Truncation System

  • Cheque Truncation System (CTS)is an online image-based cheque clearing system undertaken by the RBI for faster clearing of cheques. It eliminates the associated cost of movement of physical cheques.

National Automated Clearing House

  • National Automated Clearing House (NACH)is a service offered by NPCI to banks which aims at facilitating interbank high volume, low value debit/credit transactions, which are repetitive and electronic in nature.

 

 

Malabar gliding frog spotted at Pullad

Recently, a rare amphibian i.e. Malabar Gliding Frog (Rhacophorus malabaricus) was spotted in Pullad, Kerala.

  • The amphibian is endemicto the rainforest of western ghats.
    • Endemic speciesare those plants and animals that exist only in one geographical region.
  • Characteristics:
    • It is agreen frog with slender body, webbed feet, unusual body positions and very well 
      • Camouflage,also called cryptic coloration, is a defense mechanism or tactic that organisms use to disguise their appearance, usually to blend in with their surroundings.
    • The fingers and toes are like sticks to attach and walk through tree branches.
    • It has a high gliding abilities,with the long skin between the fingers which helps to cover 10 to 12 feet in one leap.
    • It has abody length of 10 cm, making it one of the largest mossy frogs.
      • Mossy Frogs:These frogs have the skin which is green in colour and resembles moss growing on the rock.
    • The breeding period is during the monsoon and usually, the females choose to spawn on the lush green leaves overhanging a waterbody.
    • As their body is so soft, they can live only in moist forests with streams.
  • Foam Nests:
    • They built foam nests above small pools of water, into which the tadpoles drop after hatching.
      • Behaviour like cannibalism has been found among tadpoles.
    • Protection Status:
      • In the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, it is placed in the Least Concern
    • Concern:The Malabar gliding frog population is declining due to deforestation, climate change, developmental activities, and toxic chemicals.

The Western Ghats

  • These are the mountain ranges running parallel along the western coast of India starting from Gujarat and ending in Tamil Nadu.
  • Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala are the six Indian states covered by Western Ghats.
  • The mountain range is also a “Hottest Hotspot” of biodiversity.
  • The Ghats are often called the Great Escarpment of India and are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • High Biodiversity and Endemism are special features of Western Ghats along with the presence of Evergreen Forests.

Amphibia

  • They fall under the Chordata phylum of the kingdom Animalia, Eg., Frogs, Salamanders etc.
  • These are multicellular vertebrates that live both on land and water.
  • They are the first cold-blooded animals to have appeared on land.
    • Cold-blooded animals can be defined as the animals which cannot regulate their internal body temperature with the change in the environment.
  • They respire through the lungs and skin.
  • They have three chambered.
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