The Hindu Important Articles 22 April 2018
Nirav Modi is in Hong Kong
Based on inputs gathered from intelligence sources, investigating agencies have confirmed that diamond merchant Nirav Modi, wanted in the Rs. 13,578-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud cases, is still in Hong Kong and his whereabouts have been established. India has already sent a request to Hong Kong’s Department of Justice for his provisional arrest.
55-year-old man held for rape of minor girl
A 55-year-old man was arrested for allegedly raping a nine-year-old girl in suburban Deonar, the police said on Saturday.
The incident is believed to have taken place on Friday morning when the victim was playing outside her house, a police official said.
The accused (name not disclosed), who lived next door, allegedly took the girl to his house and raped her, the police official said.
The alleged crime came to light when the girl complained to her parents about pain in the stomach.
The accused was today arrested under section 376 (rape) of IPC and the Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
Elephant attacks in Odisha district kill 6
Six persons, including one woman, have been killed by marauding elephants in Odisha’s Dhenkanal district since April 10.
IIT Roorkee develops a potent molecule to treat chikungunya
When 5 microMolar was used a reduction of almost 99% in the virus was seen
A team of researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee has achieved a measure of success by finding a small molecule that has good antiviral activity against chikungunya virus. The antiviral activity was so high that the small molecule was able to achieve almost 99% reduction in the virus when 5 microMolar was used.
Currently, there are no drugs to treat chikungunya or any vaccine to prevent it.
Using structure-based studies of chikungunya virus-specific nsP2 protease, the team led by Prof. Shailly Tomar from the Department of Biotechnology had earlier identified two small molecules — Pep-I and Pep-II — for their inhibitory activity. Protease inhibitors have already been used successfully against HIV and hepatitis C virus.
In the latest study, published in the journal Biochimie, the researchers report that one of the two molecules — Pep-I — has superior antiviral activity against chikungunya virus. The small molecule was found to effectively bind to the protein of the virus (nsP2 protease) and prevent the virus from replicating.The researchers hypothesised that any molecule that inhibits nsP2 protease should have antiviral activity. To test the hypothesis they carried out antiviral studies using cell lines. “The studies confirmed that both molecules had significant ability to kill the virus. The Pep-I molecule was very efficient in killing the virus — 99% reduction in virus at 5 microMolar,” says Prof. Tomar. The Pep-II molecule showed reduced antiviral activity of only 50% even at a higher concentration of about 200 microMolar.
“When 10 microMolar of Pep-I was used no viable virus could be detected in the culture. The antiviral activity was tested by adding the molecules directly into the virus culture. The two molecules also reduced the viral RNA thus confirming the antiviral activity,” says Rajat Mudgal from the Department of Biotechnology at IIT Roorkee and one of the first authors of the paper.
“We found even when the concentration of the two molecules was less than 50 microMolar, they were able to effectively inhibit the protease. Generally, when less than 50 microMolar concentration produces good enzyme inhibition it is considered good in terms of potency and effectiveness,” says Harvijay Singh who is the other first author of the paper.
The team then tested whether the molecules were specifically inhibiting only the chikungunya virus. They used Sindbis virus, the model virus of the genus alphavirus to which chikungunya belongs, to test the specificity. “These two molecules did not show antiviral activity against Sindbis virus indicating that they are very specific to chikungunya virus,” says Prof. Tomar. The specificity of molecules to inhibit only the chikungunya virus is not surprising as these molecules are structure-based.
“We will try and improve the potency of the inhibitors by making derivatives of the molecules through in silico work,” says Prof. Tomar.
A challenge to protocol
Planned Zika virus vaccine trial divides scientists and bioethicists
Members of a government ethics panel in the U.S. have renewed their criticisms of a controversial study in which volunteers are to be deliberately infected with the Zika virus.
In an article published this month in the journal Science , panel members have called for the establishment of ethics committees to review the design of such human-challenge studies, which are sometimes used to test vaccines.
“There is no way to turn back time,” says Seema Shah, a bioethicist at the University of Washington who chaired the panel and is a co-author of the new paper.
“When you’re asking someone to take a risk that won’t benefit them but may benefit others in the future, you need to know two things — that proper protections are in place, and that it’s really going to move the needle.”
With funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the investigators plan to inoculate participants with potential vaccines and then inject them with small doses of the Zika virus to test the vaccines’ effectiveness. The NIH has not yet decided whether the research will proceed.
The scientists leading the trial say it is necessary to prevent a future epidemic. But Ms. Shah and other bioethicists convened by the NIH concluded in 2017 that the research had “insufficient value” to justify the risks.
People outside the study, such as sexual partners, might also be infected, the panel says. And Zika infection might have unspecified consequences for participants in the long term.
But scientists in charge of the study say the panel’s concerns are hypothetical and do not take into account the proposed protocol. They plan to use minimal doses of Zika virus and to quarantine patients in a hospital inpatient unit.
The study also will start by enrolling only women — who are less likely to transmit Zika sexually — and will require them to use long-term birth control.
“It’s really insulting,” says Dr. Stephen Whitehead, a vaccine researcher at the NIH, of the panel’s decision. “We’ve been painted as mad scientists who do horrible studies on human beings. But we’re on top of all these risks.”
Human-challenge studies are only conducted at a small number of institutions in the U.S. The trials have been used to test vaccines or treatments for dengue, malaria, influenza and norovirus, among other diseases.
Natural Zika outbreaks are becoming too sporadic to test vaccines, so until the next large outbreak, a human-challenge study may be the only way for vaccine developers to proceed.
“This ethics consultation was debilitating for the whole community,” says Dr. Anna Durbin, a research clinician at Johns Hopkins University who collaborated on the study’s design. “It really slammed the door on progress.”NY TIMES