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The Indian Express 30/06/ 2020

1)Explained: What is G4 flu virus with ‘pandemic potential’ found by Chinese researchers?

In a new research, scientists from China – which has the largest population of pigs in the world – have identified a “recently emerged” strain of influenza virus that is infecting Chinese pigs and that has the potential of triggering a pandemic. Named G4, the swine flu strain has genes similar to those in the virus that caused the 2009 flu pandemic.

The study was published Monday in the US science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PANS).

Essentially, swine flu is a virus that pigs can get infected by. While humans typically do not get infected by such a virus that circulates among pigs, when they do, it is called “variant influenza virus”. Human-to-human transmission among variant influenza viruses is limited. As per the CDC, most commonly, humans may get infected by such viruses due to exposure from infected pigs.

The 2009 pandemic was caused by a strain of the swine flu called the H1N1 virus, which was transmitted from human to human. The symptoms of swine flu include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headaches, chills and fatigue.

2)Explained: The Assam snake that was lost and subsequently found 129 years later

More than a century after it was first seen, the Assam keelback — a snake species endemic to the region — was rediscovered in 2018 by a team from Wildlife Institute of India (WII) near a reserve forest on the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border. A look at the Herpetoreas pealii, its uniqueness, and its journey from being near-lost to rediscovered.

When was the snake first seen?

It was discovered 129 years ago by Samuel Edward Peal, a British tea planter based in Upper Assam. The planter collected two specimens of the small brown non-venomous snake from the evergreen forests that made up what is now Assam’s Sivasagar district, and deposited them in the museum.

“In 1891, William Lutley Sclater, a British zoologist, formally recorded the snake as a new species in a half-page description and named it after the collector (Edward Peal) and commonly after the place where it was found.

3)Explained: What is Covaxin, India’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate; how long before approval?

India’s top drug regulator, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, has allowed Bharat Biotech India (BBIL) to conduct human clinical trials for ‘Covaxin’, making it the first indigenously developed Covid-19 vaccine candidate to receive this approval, the firm said. These trials are scheduled to start across India in July.

What is ‘Covaxin’ and how was it developed?

Covaxin is a vaccine candidate to developed by BBIL against the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research’s National Institute of Virology (NIV).

As part of this collaboration, NIV isolated a strain of the virus from an asymptomatic Covid-19 patient and transferred it to BBIL early in May. The firm then used it to work on developing an “inactivated” vaccine–a vaccine that uses a the dead virus–at its high containment facility in Hyderabad.

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