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COVID-19 Dialogue: “Like Humans, Microbes Too Find Newer Ways To Survive And Thrive”

It is very important for individuals to not panic and believe in the basic mantra “break the virus chain”.



We are currently living through a time in the history of human life like no other. The good world is busy trying to find out the ways to defeat the Wuhan, China, originating monster called COVID-19. India is playing a worthy role in this global exercise. Recently, we had published a story about an Indian research about Identifying Biomarkers To Predict Progression From Non-Severe To Severe Coronavirus. Here we talk with the person who leads the study — Dr Sanjeeva Srivastava, Professor, Group leader, Proteomics Facility, IIT –Bombay, Mumbai.

Dr Srivastava obtained his PhD from the University of Alberta and post-doc from the Harvard Medical School in the area of proteomics, stress physiology, and has specialized expertise in applications of data-enabled sciences in global health, developing country and resource-limited settings. Dr Srivastava is an active contributor to global proteomics science and innovation. He serves on the Executive Council of Human Proteome Organization (HUPO) and Proteomics Society, India (PSI). He is also the man behind one of the first-ever documentaries on proteomics – “Proteomics: Translating the Code of Life” and “Human Proteome Project (HPP)”.

For his leading role in some of the pioneering studies in the field of proteomics science and innovation in India, as indeed globally, League of India calls him an ‘Agent of Change‘.

You are leading a team that is exploring “metabolomics alteration for COVID-19 treatment”. Can you please explain the purpose, nature and scope of the study in simpler terms for our readers? Are there any tools and techniques that are unique to this study?

Dr Srivastava: The goal of this study is to better understand the changes inside the human body by virtue of the SARS-CoV-2 viral infection.

Our body mounts a response to any invading pathogen through a series of concerted efforts which in turn lead to changes in the chemical composition of the cells. The virus also requires a few such chemicals or small molecules, commonly referred to as “metabolites”, to survive and carry out its functions inside the cell. These responses may be different in different individuals depending on the immune system of the patient or the individual, and the type of the virus causing the infection.

Currently, we have no idea about these differences, and we aim to decipher those changes.

The study aims to profile metabolites from patient plasma and oral swabs using a technique called Mass spectrometry.

Once we collect all the data, subsequent analysis will provide an idea about the differences between the individuals suffering from mild to severe form of COVID-19.

Can this study be seen as a subset of the Human Proteome Project (HPP), which you are associated with? Can you please tell a little about HPP and your connection with it?

Dr Srivastava: The Human Proteome Project (HPP) aims at uncovering protein level information for all the protein-coding genes that make up a human body. The two verticals to this project are the Chromosome-centric human proteome project (C-HPP) and the Biology/Disease- driven HPP (B/D-HPP) and I am involved actively in both.

My lab works actively in Human Infectious Disease Project (HID) of B/D-HPP and investigates infectious diseases like Malaria and Dengue.

Proteomics Lab, IIT-Bombay (Dr Srivastava in the centre, with a bouquet in hand) Courtesy: IIT Bombay, Mumbai, India

The current study cannot be included as a subset of the ongoing projects of HPP.

However, I am hopeful that given the severity of the problem due to the pandemic, we will find ways to collaborate with more proteomics/metabolomics scientists to include the information from multiple labs to expand the scope of this project.

A team in Ahmedabad recently achieved whole-genome sequencing of the novel coronavirus. How do such results aid your COVID-19 study? How would your team’s study add to such results? Combining all the studies, at what stage is research towards COVID-19 treatment currently in India?

Dr Srivastava: Genome sequencing is one level of information that is available to us now. The cells typically use this information stored in the genes to express themselves by forming mRNA ultimately giving rise to proteins.

Our aim is to generate information at a functional level, i.e., at the proteins and metabolite level and correlate the finding with the genome level information available.

As far as research in the therapeutic area is concerned, the whole world is in the nascent stages. However, constant encouragement from the government agencies and the availability of talent pool from diverse backgrounds is helping research progress at a rate like never before.

Is there an overlap between HPP and the Human Genome Project (HGP)? How do the two ‘projects’ help medical research — especially with regards combating pandemics like COVID-19 that seem to be afflicting the human race, in newer forms, every few decades?

Dr Srivastava: The Human Genome Project was a landmark event in research and provided us with vital details about the draft blueprint and genetic makeup of humans. However, information about how these genes affect the changes within the cells was not clear even after the interpretation of results from the HGP.

To this end, the human proteome (HPP) project was started as a flagship program of Human Proteome Project (HUPO) with the hope of finding answers to many questions that persisted.

The goal of these mega-efforts has always been to understand humans better, in order to be able to unravel the diseases like cancer, TB, Malaria and other infectious diseases.

While we have been making rapid strides in research, we must understand that nature also has always favoured the theory of survival of the fittest.

Like us, the microbes around undergo mutations and rapid changes in an effort to find newer ways to survive and thrive.

As a result, we are now seeing extraordinary and uncertain times due to pandemics like COVID-19.

A better understanding of the cells and the immune responses at multiple levels through projects like HPP, HGP will only better prepare us in fighting future pandemics.

What does it take to find a drug or vaccine for a disease or a pandemic like COVID-19? What would you like to say to the ‘everyday Indians’ who find it difficult to believe that there is no cure for something like COVID-19?

Dr Srivastava: Labs around the world are trying to fast track and speed-up research in a bid to find a vaccine or drug target without compromising on the quality besides ensuring human safety. This process will take some time but it is not impossible.

Scientists, healthcare workers and pharmaceutical companies and governments are all doing their best to ensure that the disease is combatted.

It is very important for individuals to not panic and believe in the basic mantra “break the virus chain” with simple cleaning steps and few precautions like washing hands with soaps, disinfectants like 70% ethanol, heat treatment at 56C for 30 min (some of these are easy ways to get rid of virus).

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COVID-10: India Conducts Record 10.5 Lakh Tests In 24 Hrs

WHO has advised that a country needs 140 tests/day/ million population.



NEW DELHI: India has crossed a crucial milestone in the fight against COVID-19. For the first time, a record number of more than 10.5 lakh COVID tests have been conducted in a single day.

With 10,55,027 tests conducted in the last 24 hours, India has further strengthened the national diagnostic capacity of testing more than 10 lakh samples daily.

With this achievement, the cumulative tests have crossed 4.14 crore (4,14,61,636). The Centre, keeping in view the evolving global context of COVID-19, conceptualised and implemented the Continuum of Care strategy of “Test, Track and Treat” in close coordination with the State/UT governments.

Pivoted on the strong pillar of aggressive testing, the positive cases are identified early which enables and ensures that their contacts are efficiently tracked in a timely manner.

This is followed up with prompt isolation in-home or facility setting for the mild and moderate cases, and hospitalisation for the severe and critical patients.

The exponential jump in the testing capacity and cumulative tests has resulted in an upsurge in the Tests Per Million. They stand at 30,044 today.

WHO in its Guidance Note on “Public Health Criteria to Adjust Public Health and Social Measures in the Context of COVID-19” has advised comprehensive surveillance for suspected COVID-19 cases. WHO has advised that a country needs 140 tests/day/ million population.

In another row of achievements, all State/UTs have crossed the advised number of tests.

Several states have demonstrated better performance by registering a Positivity Rate lower than the national average.

The testing strategy also ensured a steady expansion of the national lab network.

Today, with 1003 labs in the government sector and 580 private labs, 1583 labs are providing comprehensive testing facilities to the people. These include:

• Real-Time RT PCR based testing labs: 811 (Govt: 463 + Private: 348)
• TrueNat based testing labs: 651 (Govt: 506 + Private: 145)
• CBNAAT based testing labs: 121 (Govt: 34 + Private: 87)

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Legendary Indian Classical Vocalist Pandit Jasraj Dies At 90

Pandit Jasraj was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian honour.



NEW JERSEY (United States): Pandit Jasraj, one of the world’s most prominent Indian classical vocalists passed away at the age of 90 due to cardiac arrest, says his daughter Durga Jasra. “With profound grief, we inform that Sangeet Martand Pandit Jasraj ji breathed his last this morning at 5.15 EST due to a cardiac arrest at his home in New Jersey, USA,” a statement issued by his family said, newswire agency PTI reported.

Born in Haryana in 1930, his musical career spanned eight decades. In the year 2000, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian honour.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the maestro’s death has left a deep void in the country’s cultural sphere:

President Ram Nath Kovind also expressed his condolences and posted that the revered vocalist had “enthralled people with soulful renditions.”

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PM Modi Becomes Longest-Serving Non-Congress Prime Minister

PM Modi was elected to office for the second time on May 23, 2019.



NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday became the fourth-longest serving Prime Minister of India surpassing Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure. The feat also makes PM Modi the country’s longest-serving Prime Minister not from the Congress. The prime minister, on August 13, surpassed the tenure of 2,268 days that Vajpayee had clocked in his three terms combined.

Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Manmohan Singh – all from the Congress – are the three longest-serving Prime Ministers in that order.

Vajpayee served three terms as prime minister of India. He was first elected as PM in 1996 and was in office for 13 days between May 16 and June 1. His second stint came in 1998, when he served as PM for 13 months between March 1998 and April 1999. This was followed by a five-year term between 1999 and 2004.

Among India’s other non-Congress prime ministers were Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, V.P. Singh, Chandra Shekhar, H.D. Deve Gowda and Inder Kumar Gujral, none of whom completed a full term in office.

India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who assumed office on August 15, 1947, stayed in the seat till May 27, 1964, a total of 6,130 days or almost 17 years.

His daughter Indira Gandhi was the second longest-serving PM of India, holding office for almost 11 years. She first assumed office on January 24, 1966, and continued till March 24, 1977. She returned as PM on January 14, 1980, and continued till her assassination on October 31, 1984. She was in the office for 5,829 days.

Manmohan Singh was in office for a decade, between May 22, 2004, and May 26, 2014, a total of 3,656 days.

Sworn into his second term in May 2019, PM Modi towers over India’s electioneering politics and much of the country’s political discourse.

In 2014, the Modi-led BJP decimated all opposition and swept the election, becoming the first party to win a majority in over three decades.

Before moving to New Delhi, PM Modi served as the Chief Minister of his home state Gujarat for 13 years since 2001.

Narendra Damodardas Modi:

Born in Vadnagar in northern Gujarat, PM Modi, in his teens, sold tea – a part of his life that would take on immense significance at a critical turn of his political career.

Known as a strong debater in school, he was barely in his teens when he joined the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student outfit linked to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of the BJP.

When eight years old, Modi discovered the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and began attending its local shakhas (training sessions). There, Modi met Lakshmanrao Inamdar, popularly known as Vakil Saheb, who inducted him as a Bal Swayamsevak (junior cadet) in the RSS and became his political mentor.

While Modi was training with the RSS, he also met Vasant Gajendragadkar and Nathalal Jaghda, Bharatiya Jana Sangh leaders who were founding members of the BJP’s Gujarat unit in 1980.

Modi travelled around India for two years and visited a number of religious centres before returning to Gujarat. In 1971 he became a full-time worker for the RSS.

In interviews, Modi has described visiting Hindu ashrams founded by Swami Vivekananda: the Belur Math near Kolkata, followed by the Advaita Ashrama in Almora and the Ramakrishna Mission in Rajkot. Modi remained only a short time at each, since he lacked the required college education.

Vivekananda has been described as a large influence in Modi’s life.

In the early summer of 1968, Modi reached the Belur Math but was turned away, after which Modi travelled through Calcutta, West Bengal and Assam, stopping in Siliguri and Guwahati.

Modi returned to Vadnagar for a brief visit before leaving again for Ahmedabad. There, Modi lived with his uncle, working in the latter’s canteen at the Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation.

In Ahmedabad, Modi renewed his acquaintance with Inamdar, who was based at the Hedgewar Bhavan (RSS headquarters) in the city.

After the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, he stopped working for his uncle and became a full-time Pracharak (campaigner) for the RSS, working under Inamdar.

Shortly before the war, Modi took part in a non-violent protest against the Indian government in New Delhi, for which he was arrested; this has been cited as a reason for Inamdar electing to mentor him. Many years later Modi would co-author a biography of Inamdar, published in 2001.

During the state of emergency imposed across the country in 1975, Modi was forced to go into hiding.

The RSS assigned him to the BJP in 1985 and he held several positions within the party hierarchy until 2001, rising to the rank of general secretary.

At 18, PM Modi’s parents arranged his wedding. He left home soon after. In 1971, he joined the RSS. During the Emergency of 1975-77, when then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi jailed several political opponents and severely restricted fundamental rights, PM Modi went into hiding and wrote a book.

He was assigned by the RSS to the BJP in 1985 and held several posts until he replaced Keshubhai Patel as Gujarat Chief Minister in 2001.

Modi was appointed Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001 due to Keshubhai Patel’s failing health and poor public image following the earthquake in Bhuj. Modi was elected to the legislative assembly soon after.

Partisan Reactions:

The milestone, predictably, has earned effusive praise from the BJP:

He might have broken the previous record, but the new record that he will end up creating will remain unmatched in the Indian political history. The kind of stable government he has given speaks volume,” said Rajiv Pratap Rudy, a senior BJP leader.

Congress leader Shakti Singh Gohil, though, dismissed Modi’s record tenure to say it wasn’t the duration that mattered but the achievements.

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