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Indian Scientists develop a new technology platform to detect SARS-CoV-2

New Delhi, Feb 10: A team of Indian scientists has developed a new technology platform that promises to help detect viruses and other pathogens. Its potential has been demonstrated for the detection of the Coronavirus. How Viruses Can Be A Major Global Threat To Human Health. Viruses are a major global threat to human health, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 continuing to inflict catastrophic effects across the world. The unprecedented transmission rate of the RNA virus has necessitated rapid and accurate diagnosis to prevent its spread and to provide timely treatment. Unravelling unique molecular targets specific to viruses is challenging yet critical for diagnosing emerging viral diseases. Nucleic acids and proteins are the primary targets in diagnostic assays of viral pathogens. Identifying novel sequences and conformations of nucleic acids as targets is desirable for developing diagnostic assays specific to a virus of interest. The study team comprising scientists from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), an autonomous institute of the Department of Science & Technology, Govt. of India, and India Institute of Science (IISc), identified and characterised a DNA sequence within the SARS-CoV-2 genome, promises to be a tangible target for virus detection. Consequently, it has developed a molecular probe, which unambiguously recognises it and emits light in the red region of visible light, which can be used for detection and quantification. A highlight of the study is that it presents an entirely new strategy to target a unique, unconventional nucleic acid structure specific to the SARS-CoV-2 sequence using small molecules.  In contrast, existing fundamental concepts have been repurposed in the currently used diagnostic systems. “Our platform is very general and modular in nature and can be easily adapted for the detection of various DNA/RNA based pathogens including bacteria and viruses such as HIV, Influenza, HCV, etc., by identifying and targeting unusual nucleic acid structures in their genomes and also adapting isothermal amplification protocols,” said Prof. T. Govindaraju of JNCASR, who led the study. The team included Sumon Pratihar, JNCASR, Ragini Agrawal, Virender Kumar Pal, and Amit Singh of IISc. They have published a research…

Antimicrobial resistance

Antibiotic resistance: A safe and easy process to produce antimicrobial agents

 New Delhi, Dec 14: A team of researchers from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER)-Bhopal, has developed a safe and easy procedure to produce silver nanomaterials that can be used as antimicrobial agents. What is Antibiotic resistance? Antibiotic resistance is a serious condition in which bacteria and other microbes that invade the human body become resistant to the antibiotics/antimicrobials that are meant to kill them. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared bacterial antibiotic resistance as one of the most important crises facing humanity. The problem is particularly serious in India due to the rampant and indiscriminate use of antibiotics in humans, livestock, and agriculture. There is a dire need for antibiotic substitutes and Nano-technological solutions. The study by the IISER Bhopal team promises to fill the gap. Silver, the common ornamental metal, when present as Nano-sized particles – one hundred thousand times smaller than the width of a single human hair – has good antimicrobial properties. Medical practitioners have used silver in various forms to prevent infections and promote healing from ancient times. Generally, silver nanomaterials are produced using toxic precursors that often generate harmful by-products inside the system. The procedure developed by the IISER team has overcome this problem. The researchers used an amino acid called Tyrosine, which is present in many food items, including meat, dairy, nuts, and beans. They treated silver nitrate, the main component of the ‘election ink’ used to stain nails after voting in India, with tyrosine in the presence of caustic soda. Tyrosine functioned as a reducing agent and capping agent to produce silver nanomaterials. On examining the product under high-resolution microscopes they found two forms of silver nanostructures – nanoclusters and nanoparticles. The nanoparticles were found to kill microbes such as S. cerevisiae (associated with pneumonia, peritonitis, UTI etc.), C. Albicans (oral and genital infections), and E. coli (stomach infection), in about four hours. The smaller-sized nanoclusters, in turn, were luminescent and had the potential to be used as bioimaging probes.  The group also elucidated the mechanism by which the nanoparticles kill microbes. They found that the nanoparticles generate…

Antimicrobial resistance

Antimicrobial resistance is threatening global health security

World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 18-24 November When medicines become resistant, even curable diseases are at risk of becoming incurable When does Antimicrobial resistance occur? Antimicrobial resistance occurs when microbes such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites no longer respond to medicines. This makes common infections harder to treat and increases the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death. That is why India and other countries worldwide are observing 18-24 November as World Antimicrobial Awareness Week. Thomas Joseph, World Health Organization (WHO)’s head of Antimicrobial Stewardship and Awareness said that “Antimicrobial resistance is undermining a century of progress in medicine – infections that were previously treatable and curable with our drugs are becoming (or at risk of becoming) incurable (as medicines are not working against infections). Even common infections are becoming risky and a problem. Surgeries are becoming risky. The cause of antimicrobial resistance is found in the behaviour of human beings who are misusing or overusing antimicrobials. We must ensure that when we are sick we are only taking antimicrobials on medical advice and medical supervision.” Keep the healthcare facilities clean: use medicines responsibly and appropriately Irresponsible and inappropriate use of antimicrobials (antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals or antiparasitics) is not justified to compensate for the failure of ensuring standard infection control practices. Dr Kamini Walia, Scientist at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, is currently leading the setting up of antimicrobial surveillance networks across the country. “Antimicrobial resistance is a direct result of excessive use of antimicrobials which is mostly done to compromise for poor infection control practices. Now we have a big burden of drug resistance in the community as well as drug-resistant nosocomial infections- hospital-acquired drug-resistant infections. These drug-resistant pathogens are invisible threats that continue to claim invisible victims in our hospitals. They are invisible because in India there is no government system to record the deaths due to drug-resistant infections. So we continue to remain oblivious to the actual burden of drug-resistant infections in our country” said Dr Kamini Walia. That is why ICMR’s Dr Walia is…


Researchers develop alternatives to curb antibiotic resistance

New Delhi, Aug 09, 2021: Antibiotic resistance, the ability of bacteria and other microorganisms to resist the effects of an antibiotic to which they were once sensitive, is a major concern all over the world. A new study, conducted by the scientists at Council Of Scientific And Industrial Research–Central Food Technological Research Institute (CSIR–CFTRI), has sounded the alarm bell on the indiscriminate and rampant use of such ‘conventional antibiotics’ in the food industry. New protein-based antimicrobials from beneficial microbes could be a better replacement for ‘conventional antibiotics’ in the food industry, the study revealed. CSIR–CFTRI researchers have identified one from beneficial microbes, to demonstrate how it is better than antibiotics. The development of natural antimicrobials and their use in the food industry is an emerging phenomenon, researchers added. “We were able to identify antimicrobial peptides from a beneficial microbe. We checked its function in comparison with the other antimicrobial commercially available and developed in Europe. Our antimicrobial agent was found much better as it can kill WHO prioritized Group-I, Group-II, and Group-III organisms. The molecule works in very high temperatures, in harsh conditions such as acidic, and alkaline”, said Professor Rajagopal Kammara, Head, Department of Protein Chemistry and Technology, CSIR-CFTRI, who was leading the study. “It is highly suitable for the food industry because it works in the presence of metal salts, detergents, and enzymes. It does not cause any harm after consumption, instead, it cleans up the harmful pathogens in the stomach, without harming the beneficial microbes”, added Professor Kammara. “Everywhere the conventional antibiotics are in rampant use, even in foods such as meat, vegetables, and even one can find its traces in water. There is huge contamination of antibiotics that is creating antibiotic-resistant organisms. This rampant use is creating a major problem in the environment, the beneficial microbes are turning into antibiotic-resistant. Therefore, it is time for us to look for replacements for antibiotics. The best thing may be proteins or peptides from beneficial microbes”, observed Professor Kammara. This study began with the isolation of indigenous fermented foods, screening for bacteria producing various antimicrobials, and characterizing them. One of…


The study could help beat multi-drug resistance

Multi-drug resistance: a public health issue New Delhi, June 29 : Multi-drug resistance is increasingly becoming a major public health issue. Scientists across the world have been working on finding ways to deal with the problem.  A major issue has been that while some bacteria evolve multi-drug resistance some others don’t. The reason for this is yet to be found out. A new study at the Population Biology Laboratory at Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER) – Pune promises to help decipher this and several other similar mysteries. New study on E Coli bacteria The scientists at IISER, Yashraj Chavhan, Sarthak Malusare, and Sutirth Dey conducted their study on E Coli bacteria. They grew samples of the bacteria with varying population sizes across different environments and then subjected them to whole-genome, whole-population sequencing analysis. They found that samples with a small population size acquired a certain set of mutations which allow them to survive in a certain environment but not in others. Samples with large populations also developed these mutations. However, they further developed some certain compensatory mutations that together helped them to survive in multiple environments. It was clear that population size determined the kind of mutations available to the bacteria, which in turn, leads to the type of fitness they acquire. Method of study The group studied about 480 generations of E. coli in four types of steady environments consisting of different carbon sources, namely, galactose, thymidine, maltose and sorbitol, and one fluctuating environment in which the carbon source changed unpredictably amongst the four sources.  The study assumes importance as so far it was understood that the ability of a bacteria to develop multi-drug resistance was based on what was termed as `fitness cost’: when bacteria become fit in one environment, they either lose fitness or fail to increase fitness in other environments. The new study has clarified this by showing that when the environment is fluctuating, large populations can bypass this effect. However, the research work only shows that large population size can help in fluctuating environments. It is not yet clear as to what…

Health news

BCIL seeks partner to commercialise typhoid vaccine

New Delhi, January 30: The Department of Biotechnology’s Biotech Consortium India Limited (BCIL) is looking for an industrial partner for commercialization of a technology for producing a Bivalent Outer Membrane Vesicles (OMV) vaccine against typhoid. Typhoid fever usually occurs in children aged between 5–15 years.  What is Typhoid Typhoid is a bacterial infection and two strains of the bacteria — Salmonella typhi and Salmonella paratyphi A are prime cause for the infection in south-central and south-east Asia. Salmonella Paratyphi A has been responsible for escalating illness cases reported across Asia. However, at present, there are no vaccines available against it commercially. The new vaccine overcomes this problem. The vaccine contains what are called outer membrane vesicles of both the Salmonella strains in equal proportion and thus can be effective against both of them. Further, the technology does not involve use of proteins, excipients (stabilizing substance) or any antibiotics. It has 80-100% potential to invoke body’s response (immunogenicity), and is much safer for use. Proof of concept for this technology has been established by demonstrating the efficacy of vaccine in animal model (mice). In-house validation has also been completed. Further, the technology offers a simple method to purify outer membrane vesicles. A patent has been filed for the invention. By Dr. Bilqeesa Bhat (India Science Wire)


Researchers discover genes that help bacteria prevent treatment : Study

New York, Feb 11. Researchers have discovered two genes that make some strains of harmful bacteria resistant to treatment by copper, which is a powerful and frequently used antibacterial agent, says a new study. The discovery showed that Staphyloccocus aureus bacteria, which is highly resistant to antibiotics, can acquire additional genes that promote infections and antibacterial resistance and may open new paths for the development of antibacterial drugs. The study, conducted by the Rutgers University in the US, showed the two genes, named copB and copL, in some strains of S. aureus bacteria protect the germs from copper. The genes may promote the survival of S. aureus in settings, such as in hospitals, that could lead to infections or they may lead to S. aureus strains with higher copper resistance. Recently, hospitals began using it against bacteria found on medical instruments and other surfaces. It has also been used for thousands of years to sterilise wounds and drinking water. But the two newly discovered genes encode proteins that help remove copper from S. aureus cells and prevent it from entering. The findings, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, revealed that some strains of S. aureus have newly acquired genes embedded in their genome in pieces of DNA called transposons. Transposons aid in the spread of genes that can give rise to bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and more likely to cause disease. The newly discovered genes are encoded within a transposon, said the study. Did you like this news / article? Please also comment and share in the comment box so that more people can talk Please subscribe to our YouTube channel