Daily Current Affairs : 26th & 27th July 2020

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. UN report on Terrorism
  2. Latent Viral infection
  3. Animal Model in Virus Testing
  4. Kashmir Saffron
  5. Revised FDI Policy
  6. Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation
  7. Facts for Prelims

1 . UN report on Terrorism

Context : A U.N. report on terrorism has warned that there are “significant numbers” of Islamic State (IS) terrorists in Kerala and Karnataka, noting that the al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) terror group is planning attacks in the region.

About the Report

  • It is the 26th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team concerning ISIS, al-Qaida and associated individuals and entities

Details of the Report

  • According to the report al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) operates under the Taliban umbrella from Nimruz, Helmand and Kandahar provinces of Afghanistan.
  • The group reportedly has between 150 and 200 members from Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and Pakistan.
  • The current leader of AQIS is Osama Mahmood , who succeeded the late Asim Umar AQIS is reportedly planning retaliation operations in the region to avenge the death of its former leader
  • According to the report, One member state reported that the ISIL Indian affiliate (Hind Wilayah), which was announced on May 10, 2019, has between 180 and 200 members .
  • It said that there are significant numbers of ISIL operatives in Kerala and Karnataka states.
  • In May last year, the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh) terror group claimed to have established a new “province” in India, the first of its kind announcement that came after clashes between militants and security forces in Kashmir.
  • The dreaded terror outfit, through its Amaq News Agency, had said that the Arabic name of the new branch is “Wilayah of Hind” (India Province).
  • Previously, the IS attacks in Kashmir were linked to its so-called Khorasan Province branch, which was set up in 2015 to cover “Afghanistan, Pakistan and nearby lands”.

UN Counter Terrorism Committee

  • Guided by Security Council resolutions 1373 (2001) and 1624 (2005), the CTC works to bolster the ability of United Nations Member States to prevent terrorist acts both within their borders and across regions.
  • It was established in the wake of the 11 September terrorist attacks in the United States.
  • The CTC is assisted by the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), which carries out the policy decisions of the Committee, conducts expert assessments of each Member State and facilitates counter-terrorism technical assistance to countries.

2 . Latent Viral Infection

Context : Ever since cases of ‘reinfection’ — people who had tested negative for COVID-19 testing positive again after a while — emerged in early January, the question of latency of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is being hotly debated.


  • The first such cases emerged in the east (China, South Korea) where scientists were puzzled over why or how individuals who had tested negative twice for the virus, had, after a few weeks or months, tested positive, the second time around albeit with milder symptoms.
  • A latent infection is when the virus in the body is dormant and does not replicate within the host. It however possesses the capacity to be reactivated at some point, causing a flare-up of the disease much later.

What is a latent viral infection?

  • A latent viral infection is an infection that is inactive or dormant
  • As opposed to active infections, where a virus is actively replicating and potentially causing symptoms, latent (or persistent; but not chronic) infections are essentially static which last the life of the host and occur when the primary infection is not cleared by the adaptive immune response
  • Examples are Herpes simplex viruses type 1 and 2, varicella-zoster virus, HIV, Epstein-Barr virus (human herpesvirus 4), and cytomegalovirus. They are known to cause typical latent infections in humans
  • Latent viral infections can be reactivated into a lytic form (the replication of a viral genome). The ability to move back and forth from latent to lytic infections helps the virus spread from infected individuals to uninfected individuals”.

Types of Virus and Latency

  • Viruses fall into two broad categories: chronic and acute; while a chronic virus will infect its host for extended periods of time, often through the lifetime of the host.
  • An acute infecting virus, such as influenza and rotavirus, is cleared from the body after a few days or weeks.
  • “A chronic virus can go into latency. This is when a virus is present within a cell, but not actively producing more infectious virus particles. For example, when a herpes virus infects a cell, its genome can remain in that cell as long as that cell is alive
  • The reactivation to the lytic state, when the production of new virus particles occurs, it may be an ‘intentional strategy by the virus to promote its survival’.
  • A perfect example of this would be chickenpox, caused by the human herpesvirus 3 — after infection, “the body responds and the virus goes into latency. Decades later, it can re-activate, resulting in shingles”. What causes reactivation is not very clear in this case.
  • HIV can also go into latency after infection. It integrates itself into the host chromatin (a substance within the chromosome), and can reactivate upon stimulation such as inflammation induced by co-infecting pathogens. This can lead to uncontrolled HIV replication and clinical AIDS.

Does SARS-CoV-2 go into latency? What causes second infections?

  • South Korean officials reporting that nearly 100 people thought to be cured of the novel coronavirus have tested positive for COVID-19 again.
  • According to Jeong Eun-Kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the COVID-19 virus may have “reactivated” in the patients rather than them becoming re-infected.
  • In Chennai too, last week, the civic body recorded a couple of cases of patients who had recovered from COVID-19 testing positive again after a span of time.

Issues with detection of virus

  • While the RT- PCR [reverse transcription/polymerase chain reaction] tests are considered to be the gold standard for testing, all tests are not 100% accurate. False positives and false negative results are expected to occur. Patients are known to test negative, then positive, and negative again, in subsequent tests performed even within days.
  • Limit of detection of a virus – This is the threshold where a virus can be detected. A negative SARS-CoV-2 test does not mean zero infection; it means no detectable infection.
  • Many viruses can survive at the mucosal level in spite of immunity. “A classical example is the polio virus, which, like SARS-CoV-2, is also a positive sense, single strand RNA (ribonucleic acid). While immunity kicks in two weeks after infection, viral shedding can continue for up to 10 weeks, in spite of very high antibody levels. Why this happens has not been explained by anybody, so far. And, in polio, if a stool test came back negative in between and then tested positive, we don’t take it as a second infection, it is a continuous infection.”

Does testing criteria make a difference?

  • Globally, it is now accepted that clinical signs are sufficient to commence treatment for COVID-19, even before an RT-PCR test is done. Also, cessation of symptoms is said to signal that a person has recovered. Unless someone has been critically ill, it is no longer necessary for the patient to test negative twice for COVID-19 to be declared cured, or sent home.
  • “We do know that finding cases is now largely determined by testing in India. But the experience of other nations has shown that we could do the same with clinical diagnosis too, they did not suffer the consequences of that,” Prof. John adds.
  • While 100% protection is not possible, he insists that ultimately, the use of masks and physical distance is going to be the only deterrence for transmission.

3 . Animal Model in Virus Testing

Context : Science and research have always relied on using animals to understand various human diseases.

Main Reasons for using Animals especially Mice

  • The primarily reasons have been the genetic similarity between animals and humans (mice share 98% of DNA with us), and that we have developed tools to edit genes in various animals.
  • We can edit a gene out in mice to try to understand its role in progression of human cancer.
  • These “animal models” are supposed represent a window to further study and understand human diseases.

Criteria for selection of Animal

  • An animal model for a particular disease should fulfil two criteria.
    • It should be able to “catch” that infection (in case of infectious diseases) and show the clinical outcomes and altered physiology that accompanies the disease.
    • Many animals do not fulfil the second criteria. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal disease that leads to loss of neurons that control our motor functions, leading to wasting of muscles, paralysis and death.
    • While mice models of this disease also show wasting of muscles, the cause of death is blockage in the gut.
    • Thus, drug targets that would prevent these mice from dying would be irrelevant in humans.


  • Mice, the most widely used “models” to understand human diseases, cannot be infected with SARS-CoV-2. If you imagine the virus to be a lock, it needs a “key” (usually a protein) on the surface of a cell to enter. The “key” is present in humans, rhesus monkeys, to a lesser extent in hamsters, ferrets and cats, but not in mice. Scientists are now creating genetically altered mice that express this “key”, as larger animals pose additional difficulties of housing, handling and are expensive.
  • This leads us to our second roadblock that an animal model should also reflect the clinical features. Apart from fever, sore throat, cough, pneumonia, COVID-19 infection in humans is also known to affect the heart, kidneys, intestine, and brain. While ferrets, hamsters, cats, rhesus monkeys and genetically modified mice could get infected with SARS-CoV-2, all of these develop only mild lung infection, most do not show fever, and they recover within seven–nine days. Many of them do not show the virus in organs other than the lungs, and exhibit contradictory results. A study in cats showed that the infection was more severe in kittens versus older cats. This is opposite to humans where older infected population has a higher risk for death.


  • Scientists are now creating miniature 3D organ-like-structures, called “organoids” that aim to replicate a human organ. These mini organs, created using stem cells, are 200 microns (width of two human strands of hair) to a few millimetres in size.
  • They have similar three-dimensional structure and cellular composition as human organs, and thus, are better reflective of human biology compared to animal models. Infection of mini-lungs with SARS-CoV-2 showed that virus triggers a massive immune response, similar to what has been observed clinically in humans.
  • Four compounds were able to reduce viral levels in mini-lungs, and one of them is registered in three clinical trials. Scientists were also unclear on how the virus travels to various organs inside the body, till a study found that SARS-CoV-2 could infect blood vessel organoids. This indicates that the virus could travel via the blood stream to various organs, such as kidney, heart, etc (which also express “key” for the virus to enter).

Issues with Mini Organs

  • Despite their potential, many of these mini-organs currently do not have blood supply, resident microbes or immune cells.
  • It is also difficult to understand the holistic response based on individual organs.
  • Scientists are currently battling these limitations by creating multiple interconnected mini-organs, and growing different types of cell (blood cells, immune cells) together.
  • It is unlikely that we would get all the answers on how the virus affects humans using one system or model. Thus, we also need to invest in computational or AI-based approaches to integrate information from different organ systems or models to create a systems body of information.

4 . Kashmiri Saffron

Context : The J&K administration on Saturday issued the certificate of geographical indication (GI) registration for saffron grown in the Kashmir Valley, even as the saffron crop sees both decline in its production as well as shrinking of the land under cultivation.

About Kashmir Saffron

  • In Kashmir valley, 90 percent of saffron production comes from Pampore uplands, locally called ‘wudar’ on the southern outskirts of Srinagar city.
  • As elsewhere in the world, saffron is grown here too by small individual farmers and the traditional quality control methods are the only way to maintain the quality and the originality of the world’s costliest spice.
  • Saffron which is considered as nature’s precious wonder gift to mankind is in great demand for its medicinal, cosmetic and aromatic properties.
  • It grows from a very small plant botanically known as Crocus Sativus. Its purple coloured flower is the only part mostly seen above the ground.
  • The blossoms appear during late autumn (mid-October to early November) and present a very fascinating memorable sight in moonlight particularly on ‘Kartik Purnima’.
  • The aromatic reddish stigmas of these flowers are harvested which form the most expensive part of the colourful spice called ‘Mogra’.
  • The remaining stalks are also processed to get inferior grade of saffron called ‘Lacha’.


  • With the GI tag, Kashmir saffron will acquire more prominence in the export market and would help farmers get the best remunerative price
  • The GI certification would also stop adulteration prevalent in the trade of Kashmir saffron.
  • Kashmir saffron faces stiff competition from Iranian saffron, which has captured over 90% share of the world market.

About GI Tag

  • GI has its origins in the 1883 Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. “The protection of industrial property has as its object patents, utility models, industrial designs, trademarks, service marks, trade names, indications of source or appellations of origin, and the repression of unfair competition”
  • But it was formalised in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of 1994. GIs are defined as “indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a member, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.”
  • India, which is a party to TRIPS, formulated a GI law in 1999, which came into force four years later. India has till now granted 303 GIs, including 11 foreign products like Scotch and Cognac.
  • The GIs include twenty nine products which have got two separate GIs each, one for the name and the other for the logo. Darjeeling tea, Kanchipuram silk, Kashmir pashmina, Lucknow chikan craft, Hyderabad haleem and Maharashtra’s Warli painting are some well known products which have been granted a GI. Karnataka is the state with most GIs, accounting for over a tenth of the country’s total.
  • It is valid for 10 years after which it can be renewed.


  • Legal Protection : Once a product has got a GI, it would be illegal for someone outside that region to make and sell a similar product under that name.
  • Commercial reasons : A study found that GI products in the EU on average command a premium of 2.2 times the price of non-GI products; wines have the highest premium, at 2.7 times, while it is 1.6 times for cheeses. But in India, there is no data available on the commercial benefits of GI

5 . Revised FDI Policy

Context : About 200 investment proposals from China are awaiting security clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) after new rules were notified in April, making prior government approval mandatory for foreign direct investments (FDI) from countries which share a land border with India.


  • As FDI is allowed in non-critical sectors through the automatic route, earlier these proposals would have been cleared without the MHA’s nod.
  • Prior government approval or security clearance from MHA was required for investments in critical sectors such as defence, media, telecommunication, satellites, private security agencies, civil aviation and mining and any investments from Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Revised Policy

  • The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) notified the new FDI policy on April 18, which said, “…an entity of a country, which shares land border with India or where the beneficial owner of an investment into India is situated in or is a citizen of any such country, can invest only under the Government route.”
  • The revised FDI policy, a press statement from DPIIT said, is aimed at “curbing opportunistic takeovers/acquisitions of Indian companies due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.”
  • India shares land borders with Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Investors from countries that are not covered by revised FDI new policy only have to inform the Reserve Bank of India after the completion of a transaction rather than seek prior clearance from the administrative ministry.
  • Last week, the Centre amended the General Financial Rules, 2017, to enable imposition of restrictions on bidders from countries which share a land border with India in relation to public procurement for reasons of national security and other factors directly or indirectly related to the country’s defence.

FDI Routes

  • The routes under which foreign investment can be made is as under:
    • Automatic Route: Foreign Investment is allowed under the automatic route without prior approval of the Government or the Reserve Bank of India, in all activities/ sectors as specified in the Regulation 16 of FEMA 20 (R).
    • Government Route: Foreign investment in activities not covered under the automatic route requires prior approval of the Government.

6 . Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation

Context : Indian companies looking to import or test potential COVID-19 vaccines, that have been developed internationally, could get leeway in the number of India-specific tests and trials they would need conduct, says a guidance document from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).

About Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation

  • The RCGM is the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation, a DBT body that approves trial procedures on biological products that involves genetic manipulation.
  • These can include DNA or modified vaccine candidates.

Details of the Committee

  • This Committee shall function from the Department of Biotechnology to monitor the safety related aspect in respect of on-going research projects or activities involving hazardous microorganisms, GE organisms and cells and products thereof.
  • The RCGM shall include representatives of (a) Department of Biotechnology (b) Indian Council of Medical Research (c) Indian Council of Agricultural Research (d) Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (e) other experts in their individual capacity. RCGM may appoint sub groups to assist RCGM on matters related to risk(s) assessment, in reviewing of existing and preparing new guidelines.
  • RCGM shall bring out Manuals of guidelines specifying procedure for regulatory process with respect to activities involving  GE organisms in research use as well as industrial & environmental applications with a view to ensure human health and environmental safety. All ongoing research projects involving hazardous microorganisms, GE organisms or cells and products thereof shall be reviewed to ensure that adequate precautions and containment conditions are being met.
  • RCGM shall lay down procedures restricting or prohibiting production, sale, importation and use of such hazardous microorganisms, GE organisms or cells.

7 . Facts for Prelims

Hypersonic and Supersonic weapons

  • Vehicles that fly at supersonic speeds are flying faster than the speed of sound. The speed of sound is about 768 miles per hour (1,236 kilometers per hour) at sea level. These speeds are referred to by Mach numbers. The Mach number is the ratio of the speed of the aircraft to the speed of sound. Flight that is faster than Mach 1 is supersonic.
  • Hypersonic weapons can travel at Greater than Mach 5. This is more than five times the speed of sound. It is the speed traveled by rockets and the space shuttle as they go into orbit.


  • A newly described species from Madagascar suggests that dinosaurs and pterosaurs (extinct flying reptiles) had extremely small ancestors — just 10 centimetres tall.
  • It was named Kongonaphon kely which roughly translates from the Malagasy language as ‘tiny bug slayer’ — a reference to its insect diet.

Vitamin C

  • “Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is a water soluble vitamin that helps to improve immunity, aids in the synthesis of collagen (skin protein), and production of certain neurotransmitters (the body’s chemical messengers).
  • It is not stored in the body and requires daily intake,

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