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The recombinant variants of SARS-CoV-2

  • Vaid's ICS, Lucknow
  • 06, Apr 2022
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How are variants created?

  1. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is an RNA virus that evolves by accumulating genetic errors in its genome. These errors are produced when the virus infects a person and makes copies of itself inside the host’s cells.
  2. The PANGO network, an open global consortium of researchers from across the world, provides a system for naming different lineages of SARS-CoV-2. These variants or lineages are widely followed by epidemiologists for tracking the evolution of SARS-CoV-2.

Mutation and Recombination:

  1. Apart from mutation, another process through which a virus increases its genetic diversity is recombination.
  2. Recombination occurs when two different lineages of the virus co-infect the same cell in the host and exchange fragments of their individual genomes which generates a descendent variant having mutations that occurred in both the original lineages of the virus.
  3. There is little evidence to suggest that recombinant lineages have a varied clinical outcome compared to the currently dominant Omicron variant.
  4. The World Health Organization (WHO) has flagged the emergence of a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus — the XE recombinant.

Pango network:

  1. The Pango dynamic nomenclature is a system for identifying SARS-CoV-2 genetic lineages of epidemiological relevance. It was first proposed in early April 2020 and a scientific paper describing the system was published in July 2020.
  2. The Pango nomenclature is being used by researchers and public health agencies worldwide to track the transmission and spread of SARS-CoV-2, including variants of concern. You may have come across Pango lineage names such as B.1.1.7 and P.1 in the news.
  3. Researchers at the Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh had formalised the Pango Network, an international team of experts to oversee the identification and naming of different lineages of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  4. The Pango Network is a resource for scientists, public health specialists, journalists, and other stakeholders worldwide who need to communicate clearly about the different genetic types and variants of SARS-CoV-2.

The Indian Antarctic Bill and its various provisions

Topics: GS II

  1. The Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022 introduced in the Lok Sabha envisages regulating visits and activities to the Antarctic. It also prescribes penal provisions for certain serious violations.
  2. India has now established two standing research stations in Antarctica, Bharati and Maitri. The major thrust areas of the Indian Antarctic Programme are climate processes and links to climate change, environmental processes and conservation and polar technology.

What does the Antarctic Bill envisage?

  1. The Bill envisages regulating visits and activities to Antarctica as well as potential disputes that may arise among those present on the continent.
  2. It also prescribes penal provisions for certain serious violations. If the Bill were to become law, private tours and expeditions to Antarctica would be prohibited without a permit or the written authorisation by a member country.
  3. A member country is one of the 54 signatories of the Antarctic Treaty signed in 1959 — India joined the Treaty System in 1983.
  4. The Bill also lays out a structure for government officials to inspect a vessel and conduct checks of research facilities.
  5. The draft also directs the creation of a fund called the Antarctic fund that will be used for protecting the Antarctic environment.
  6. The Bill extends the jurisdiction of Indian courts to Antarctica and lays out penal provisions for crimes on the continent by Indian citizens, foreign citizens who are a part of Indian expeditions or are in the precincts of Indian research stations.
  7. The Bill also establishes a ‘Committee on Antarctic Governance and Environmental Protection.’
  8. The Bill prohibits mining, dredging and activities that threaten the pristine conditions of the continent. It bans any person, vessel or aircraft from disposing of waste in Antarctica and bars the testing of nuclear devices.

What is the history of the Antarctic Treaty?

  1. The Antarctic Treaty came into force in 1961 after ratification by the 12 countries then active in Antarctic science.
  2. The Treaty covers the area south of 60°S latitude. Its key objectives are to demilitarise Antarctica, to establish it as a zone free of nuclear tests and the disposal of radioactive waste, and to ensure that it is used for peaceful purposes only; to promote international scientific cooperation in Antarctica and to set aside disputes over territorial sovereignty.

3.India is a signatory to the Antarctic Treaty which came into force in June 1961. Of the 54 signatory countries, 29 have ‘consultative’ status that gives them voting rights. The Treaty parties meet each year at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting.