Science and Technology Current Affairs February 2016
Philippines is the First Asian Country to Clear Dengue Vaccine
1) On December 22, 2015, Philippines became the first Asian country to . approve the sale of the world’s first-ever dengue vaccine Dengvaxia with a hope that the drug could eventually help prevent millions of deaths from dengue, the world’s fastest-growing mosquito-borne disease.
2) Dengvaxia, manufactured by Frech pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, secured its first regulatory approval in Mexico in the first week of December, 2015 and is currently being reviewed by around 20 countries in Asia and Latin America.
3)The World Health Organisation (HWO) says as many as 400 million people are infected worldwide every year, and 2/3rds are in Asia. Clinical tests carried out on 40000 people from 15 countries have found Dengvaxia can immunise two-third of people aged 9 years and older, rising to 93% for the more severe form of the disease, dengue haemorrhagic fever.
First Dengue Vaccine Approved for Use in Mexico
1) Mexico became the first country in the world to approve a vaccine against dengue fever on December 9, 2015. This vaccine could potentially prevent more than 8000 hospitalisations and 104 deaths annually and generate savings of up to 1100 million pesos a year.
2) According to the Mexico’s drug regulator, the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risk, the drug, named Dengvaxia, protected two-third of the over 40000 patients who participated in clinical trials conducted in 5 countries spanning Latin America and Asia.
3) The vaccine was developed by the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi over a period of 20 years, and will be available to children over the age of nine and adults under the age of 45 residing in areas where the disease is endemic.
Genetically Modified Mosquitoes to Help Fight Malaria
1) A team of researchers from the Imperial College (London) modified the gene of the malaria-spreading mosquito to introduce traits that disrupt egg production in females by using a technology called ‘gene drive’ to make sure that the gene is passed down at an accelerated rate to offspring, thus making the whole mosquito population sterile over time.
2) The gene was modified using CRISPR/Cas9 endonuclease, a type of DNA-cutting tool that can target very specific parts of the genetic code. The technique uses recessive genes, so that many mosquitoes will inherit only one copy of the gene. Two copies are needed to cause infertility, meaning that mosquitoes with only one copy are carriers.
3) The scientists worked with the mosquito species Anopheles gambiae which spreads malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, where 90% of the dea occur and this experiment, first reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology in the month of December, 2015.
WHO Declared ‘Guinea’ Ebola Free
1) The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Guinea Ebola free on December 29, 2015. With this, two-year long plague in West Africa ended. The WHO said that 42 days have passed since the last person confirmed to have Ebola virus disease tested negative for the second time.
2) Guinea, now enters a 90-day period of heightened surveillance to ensure that any new cases are identified quickly before they can spread to other people. WHO will maintain surveillance and outbreak response teams in the three countries through 2016.
3) This is the first time in two years, when original chain of transmission that began in Gueckedou (Guinea) in December, 2013 and spread to seven other countries, that all three Ebola affected countries in West Africa (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone) are Ebola free.
Scientists Developed Artificial Liver Tissue
1) As on December 23, 2015, three Bengaluru scientists have developed artificial liver tissues that perform functions of the human liver.
2) It has brought a potential alternative to artificial extracorporeal liver support (or liver dialysis) used in detoxification treatment for liver failure.
3) The trio that achieved the breakthrough comprises Arun Chandru, Dr. Abdullah Chand and Dr. Sivarajan T. All are senior scientists at Pandorum Technologies Private Limited, the Bengaluru-based biotechnology start-up working on tissue engineering.
4) The ideation process for the same started way back in 2009. In 2012, they received a grant for the research project from the Union department of biotechnology (DBT), under the Ministry of Science and Technology.
5) It has not yet reached the stage where it can be transplanted. But, the made-in-India mini liver will presently serve as test platforms for discovery and development of drugs with better efficacy, less side-effects and lower costs.