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22 March, 2020

 All about COVID-19

A step closer to developing a potent drug against novel coronavirus

Home strike: A team of researchers has deciphered the crystal structure of the main protease of the virus.

The presence of the inhibitor in the lungs even after 24 hours is significant because the virus affects the lungs

Designing better antivirals that would prevent the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) from infecting human cells may now become possible thanks to a team of researchers producing the crystal structure of the main protease of the virus. Main virus protease is an enzyme that processes proteins critical to virus development. An antiviral that blocks this enzyme, as in the case of drugs used against HIV virus, effectively prevents the virus from replicating. Hence, such an inhibitor will be effective against the novel coronavirus. The results of the study were published in the journal Science.

Decipheringkey enzyme

A team led by Rolf Hilgenfeld from the University of Lubeck, Germany developed the crystal structure of main protease of the virus at 1.75 angstrom resolution. And by redesigning an existing inhibitor developed for other coronaviruses, the researchers have been able to develop a potent inhibitor that can effectively block the enzyme and neutralise the novel coronavirus. “Based on the structure, we developed the lead compound into a potent inhibitor of the SARS-CoV-2,” they write.

Main virus protease is one of the best characterised drug targets among coronaviruses. The inhibitor against the main protease targets a specific region of the enzyme. And any antiviral that targets this region of the enzyme will be specific to the virus and will not be toxic to human cells.

The researchers had earlier designed broad-spectrum inhibitors of the main proteases of other coronaviruses. One of the inhibitors showed good antiviral activity against other coronaviruses. Now, the team chose that inhibitor and modified it to increase the amount of time the drug is present in the body and to improve its solubility in plasma.

After the modification, the half-life of the inhibitor (compound 13a) increased three-fold, and the solubility improved by a factor of about 19. And to enhance the antiviral activity, the researchers further modified the inhibitor (compound 13b).

The researchers found that the IC50 (concentration of the compound to produce 50% inhibition) to inhibit the novel coronavirus is 0.90 microMolar. The inhibitor showed good potency to block the replication of the virus at half maximal effective concentration of 1.75 micromolar. In human cells infected with the novel coronavirus, a higher half maximal effective concentration of the inhibitor was required.

Effective inhibitor

The metabolic stability of the 13a inhibitor originally modified was found to be “good” in both mouse and human microsomes (a fragment of endoplasmic reticulum and attached ribosomes). Even at the end of 30 minutes, around 80% of the residual compound in mouse and 60% in human cells remained metabolically stable. When the inhibitor was administered subcutaneously into mice, the inhibitor was present in the plasma for as long as four hours but was excreted via urine for up to a day.

The half-life of the compound 13b was found to be 1.8 hours. But most importantly, even after 24 hours there was some amount (33 nanogram per gram) of the compound 13b in the lung tissue. The presence of the inhibitor in the lungs even at the end of a day is particularly signifiicant as the virus affects the lungs.

No adverse effects

The team tested for any adverse effects when mice inhaled the inhibitor 13b. “Inhalation was tolerated well and mice did not show any adverse effects, suggesting that this way, direct administration of the compound to the lungs would be possible,” they write.

Given the “favourable results” the study provides a “useful framework for development” of drugs to combat the novel coronavirus, the authors claim in the paper.

Source: The Hindu Dated 21 Mar 2020

Sugar - Why Is It So Addictive?
18 February, 2020

Are you addicted to sugar and all sugary items? Have you tried cutting down your sugar intake, only to realize how tough, and sometimes impossible it is? These facts make it evident that something in your brain does not function normally, or in its usual way when it comes to sugar and sugary food items. This occurs because of several factors.

  1. Sugar addiction is caused by the overstimulation of your brain’s reward center
  2. Sugar is fattening in a unique way because of its high fructose content. There are various ways in which sugar causes you to overeat, leading to weight gain. The primary reason for developing an addiction to sugar is because of its impact on the brain’s reward center.
  3. When you eat sugary food, a large amount of dopamine gets released into the Nucleus Accumbens, which is a certain area of the brain. When you consume these food items frequently, the dopamine receptors become slow in regulating. As a result, the receptors for dopamine get lessened. This indicates that the next time you consume these specific food items, the effects of the receptors become blunt.
  4. For receiving the reward of the same level, you will be tempted into eating more sugary food. Sugar-rich food function quite similarly to drugs of abuse such as nicotine, cannabis, amphetamine and cocaine. Similar centers of the brain come into play in both these forms of addiction.
  5. People having some sort of predisposition towards addiction are likely to get more addicted to such sweet and sugary food items, having no control over consumption.

This is the way in which sugar hijacks your brain chemistry, making you crave for more and more sugar, and in turn, influences your behavior. 

In some people, certain anatomical changes in the brain take place, when frequently exposed to food rich in sugar. It ends up in full-fledged addiction in many people. According to the experiences of drug addicts who have been substance abusers for several years, the addiction to sugar and food rich in sugar content is exactly the same as any kind of drug addiction. There are no major differences, except that the substance of addiction and the consequences are totally different.

Several recovering drug addicts have stated that they crave for sugar, junk food, and any sweet food item in the same way they craved for alcohol and other drugs. This proves the level of addictive sugar, and it is recommended for everybody to abstain from consuming too much sugar.

International Childhood Cancer Day: Questions & Answers
15 February, 2020

Q:- How common are childhood cancers?


A:- The term “childhood cancer” is most commonly used to designate cancer that arises in children before the age of 18 years. Childhood cancers are rare, representing between 0.5% and 4.6%* of all cancers. The overall incidence rates of childhood cancer vary between 50 and 200 per million* children across the world.


Q:- Which are the most frequent types of childhood cancers?


A:-The pattern of cancer in childhood differs considerably from those among people of all other ages. In general, leukaemia constitutes about a third of all cancer in childhood. The other most common malignancies are lymphomas and tumours of the central nervous system. There are several tumour types that occur almost exclusively in children including neuroblastoma, nephroblastoma, medulloblastoma and retinoblastoma. Cancer of the breast, lung, colon or rectum, typically occurring in adults, is extremely rare in children.


Q:-What are the known risks for developing childhood cancer?


A:-To date only a few definite risk factors for childhood cancer have been identified. These include ionising radiation and ingestion of the hormone diethylstilbestrol during pregnancy (a treatment no longer in use). A number of childhood cancers are also associated with genetic factors, as suggested by the differences in incidence of childhood cancer between ethnically divergent populations. Individual susceptibility based on genetics may also play a role. Some studies have suggested that viruses such as Epstein-Barr, Hepatitis B, Human Herpes and HIV may also contribute to increased risk for some childhood cancers.


Q:- Are there geographical variations in the incidence of childhood cancer?


A:-It is difficult to have a comprehensive picture of childhood cancer around the world because cancer registries are generally not available in most low- and middle-income countries. Based on the information available, there appear to be wide variations in the incidence of childhood cancer such as leukaemia and tumours of the nervous system. While such types of cancer are rarely diagnosed, for example, in sub-Saharan Africa, populations in that region have higher incidence rates of lymphomas, in particular Burkitt lymphoma, than in other regions. This may result from greater exposure to viral infections.


Q:- Can childhood cancers be detected early?


A:-Most childhood cancer initially presents with non-specific signs and symptoms, which may lead to late detection. In high-income countries, because children are usually subjected to close parental and medical surveillance, cancer has a high chance of being detected early. In low-resourced countries, however, there are additional barriers to early detection, including poor access to health services and inadequate diagnostic facilities.


Q:- What are the chances of curing childhood cancer?


A:-In high-income countries, approximately 80% of children with cancer survive five years or more after the diagnosis of cancer. These improving outcomes result in a growing population of long-term survivors who need follow-up treatment and care. The prognosis is much lower for children diagnosed with cancer in low- and middle-income countries. Factors explaining this include: the late diagnosis of cancer leading to lower levels of effective treatment; poorly equipped hospitals without the appropriate medicines and equipment; other diseases that children might have; and a lack of knowledge about cancer among primary health care providers. In addition, treatment is simply not affordable for many parents in low-resource settings who would be required to pay for the costs themselves.


Q:- Where can data on childhood cancer be found?


A:- Data on cancer incidence are reflected in cancer registries, but there are fewer such registries in low- and middle-income countries than in high-income countries. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) through its Global Initiative for Cancer Registry Development (GICR is building national capacity for cancer registration in low- and middle-income countries.

Oversleeping - Is It A Problem?
6 February, 2020

Hyper somnolence or hypersomnia is a condition that leads to constant daytime fatigue and drowsiness as well as prolonged night time sleeps. In this condition, the patient will usually go through repeated bouts of sleep, which he or she will not be able to resist without proper treatment and intervention. This condition make patients take naps throughout the day even after a long and unhindered sleep throughout the night. Patterns of excessive drowsiness will begin to set in at the most inopportune times including meal times and even in the middle of a conversation. While there is no scientifically or medically proven cause for the onset of this ailment, it is known to affect adolescents more than adults. Read on to know more about the symptoms and treatment of this condition.


The patients suffering from this condition will experience a variety of other symptoms in addition to the constant state of drowsiness. These symptoms include anxiety, which may even go to a severe level if it is not treated properly and on time. Also, the patient may experience restlessness and a sense of increased irritation even in the most normal, everyday situations due to a perceived lack of sleep and constant state of drowsiness. Loss of appetite and hallucinations may also begin to plague patients who suffer from this condition on a chronic and prolonged basis without proper treatment. Slow thinking and slow speech are other symptoms that will start to set in with time as well.

Social Situations:

In many social and personal situations, the patient may begin to lose basic functionality because of the constant urge to sleep. The patient’s interactions on a social platform may begin to deteriorate due to the lack of coherent thinking and speaking as well as the sense of irritability and restlessness displayed.


In most cases, it is best to go about this condition by treating the symptoms with medication prescribed by a doctor. The doctor may prescribe stimulant medication that will help in keeping the system awake for longer periods at a time. The doctor will also stress on the time of the day when these must be ingested so that nighttime sleep is not affected in any way. These medicines include amphetamines, which are usually prescribed for patients suffering from ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. This medicine is usually given in controlled doses so as to keep the patient alert for longer periods of time. Other medicines include clonidine, antidepressants, bromocriptine, monoamine oxidase inhibitors and levodopa.


Behavioural therapy is also known to make a marked difference in such cases, which helps in regulating and normalizing sleep patterns.
Cancer prevention: 7 tips to reduce your risk
4 February, 2020

Concerned about cancer prevention? Take charge by making changes such as eating a healthy diet and getting regular screenings.

You've probably heard conflicting reports about cancer prevention. Sometimes a specific cancer-prevention tip recommended in one study is advised against in another.

Often, what's known about cancer prevention is still evolving. However, it's well-accepted that your chances of developing cancer are affected by the lifestyle choices you make So if you're interested in preventing cancer, take comfort in the fact that simple lifestyle changes can make a difference. Consider these cancer-prevention tips.

1. Don't use tobacco

Using any type of tobacco puts you on a collision course with cancer. Smoking has been linked to various types of cancer — including cancer of the lung, mouth, throat, larynx, pancreas, bladder, cervix and kidney. Chewing tobacco has been linked to cancer of the oral cavity and pancreas. Even if you don't use tobacco, exposure to secondhand smoke might increase your risk of lung cancer.

Avoiding tobacco — or deciding to stop using it — is an important part of cancer prevention. If you need help quitting tobacco, ask your doctor about stop-smoking products and other strategies for quitting.

2. Eat a healthy diet

Although making healthy selections at the grocery store and at mealtime can't guarantee cancer prevention, it might reduce your risk. Consider these guidelines:

  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Base your diet on fruits, vegetables and other foods from plant sources — such as whole grains and beans.
  • Avoid obesity. Eat lighter and leaner by choosing fewer high-calorie foods, including refined sugars and fat from animal sources.
  • If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation The risk of various types of cancer — including cancer of the breast, colon, lung, kidney and liver — increases with the amount of alcohol you drink and the length of time you've been drinking regularly.
  • Limit processed meats. A report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, concluded that eating large amounts of processed meat can slightly increase the risk of certain types of cancer.

In addition, women who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts might have a reduced risk of breast cancer. The Mediterranean diet focuses mostly on plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. People who follow the Mediterranean diet choose healthy fats, such as olive oil, over butter and fish instead of red meat.

3. Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active

Maintaining a healthy weight might lower the risk of various types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, prostate, lung, colon and kidney.

Physical activity counts, too. In addition to helping you control your weight, physical activity on its own might lower the risk of breast cancer and colon cancer.

Adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits. But for substantial health benefits, strive to get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity. You can also do a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. As a general goal, include at least 30 minutes of physical activity in your daily routine — and if you can do more, even better.

4. Protect yourself from the sun

Skin cancer is one of the most common kinds of cancer — and one of the most preventable. Try these tips:

  • Avoid midday sun. Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are strongest.
  • Stay in the shade. When you're outdoors, stay in the shade as much as possible. Sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat help, too.
  • Cover exposed areas. Wear tightly woven, loose fitting clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible. Opt for bright or dark colors, which reflect more ultraviolet radiation than do pastels or bleached cotton.
  • Don't skimp on sunscreen. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, even on cloudy days. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours — or more often if you're swimming or perspiring.
  • Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps. These are just as damaging as natural sunlight.

5. Get vaccinated

Cancer prevention includes protection from certain viral infections. Talk to your doctor about vaccination against:

  • Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B can increase the risk of developing liver cancer. The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for certain adults at high risk — such as adults who are sexually active but not in a mutually monogamous relationship, people with sexually transmitted infections, people who use intravenous drugs, men who have sex with men, and health care or public safety workers who might be exposed to infected blood or body fluids.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that can lead to cervical and other genital cancers as well as squamous cell cancers of the head and neck. The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls and boys ages 11 and 12. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the use of vaccine Gardasil 9 for males and females ages 9 to 45.

6. Avoid risky behaviors

Another effective cancer prevention tactic is to avoid risky behaviors that can lead to infections that, in turn, might increase the risk of cancer. For example:

  • Practice safe sex. Limit your number of sexual partners and use a condom when you have sex. The more sexual partners you have in your lifetime, the more likely you are to contract a sexually transmitted infection — such as HIV or HPV. People who have HIV or AIDS have a higher risk of cancer of the anus, liver and lung. HPV is most often associated with cervical cancer, but it might also increase the risk of cancer of the anus, penis, throat, vulva and vagina.
  • Don't share needles. Sharing needles with people who use intravenous drugs can lead to HIV, as well as hepatitis B and hepatitis C — which can increase the risk of liver cancer. If you're concerned about drug misuse or addiction, seek professional help.

7. Get regular medical care

Regular self-exams and screenings for various types of cancers — such as cancer of the skin, colon, cervix and breast — can increase your chances of discovering cancer early, when treatment is most likely to be successful. Ask your doctor about the best cancer screening schedule for you.

1 February, 2020
  • Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water;
  • When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue  – throw tissue away immediately and wash hands;
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough;
  • If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and  share previous travel history with your health care provider;
  • When visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel  coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces  in contact with animals;
  • The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid  cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.
What Is a Corona virus?
30 January, 2020

A corona virus is a kind of common virus that causes an infection in your nose, sinuses, or upper throat. Most coronaviruses are not dangerous.

Coronaviruses were first identified in the 1960s, but we don't know where they come from. They get their name from their crown-like shape. Sometimes, but not often, a coronavirus can infect both animals and humans.

Most coronaviruses spread the same way other cold-causing viruses do: through infected people coughing and sneezing, by touching an infected person's hands or face, or by touching things such as doorknobs that infected people have touched.

Some types of coronaviruses are serious, though. About 858 people have died from Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), which first appeared in 2012 in Saudi Arabia and then in other countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Europe. In April 2014, the first American was hospitalized for MERS in Indiana and another case was reported in Florida. Both had just returned from Saudi Arabia. In May 2015, there was an outbreak of MERS in Korea, which was the largest outbreak outside of the Arabian Peninsula. In 2003, 774 people died from a severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak. As of 2015, there were no further reports of cases of SARS. 

But In early 2020, following a December 2019 outbreak in China, the World Health Organization identified a new type, 2019 novel coronavirus.

29 October, 2018

Smokers in Jammu and Kashmir spend Rs 514 on cigarettes per month against rest of India average of Rs 399, a study has revealed.





26.6% population of Jammu & Kashmir is using tobacco product in one or the other of its form.

Smokers in Jammu and Kashmir spend Rs 514 on cigarettes per month against rest of India average of Rs 399, a study has revealed.

The increased use of tobacco puts children and women at greater risk of lung cancer, warns Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI).



The state’s monthly spending on smoking tobacco as far outstrips the national monthly expenditure averages. While nationally, smokers aged 15 and above spend Rs 399.20 a month on cigarettes and Rs 93.40 on bidis, those in J-K spend Rs 513.60 and Rs 134.20, respectively, on these tobacco forms,” reveals the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, (GATS).

Consequently, health hazards due to passive smoking are also more in J&K than elsewhere in the North.

The survey reveals that 26.6% population of Jammu & Kashmir is using tobacco product in one or the other of its form.

Out of these users, 41.6% are males and 10.3% females. The average age at daily initiation of tobacco use is 17.3 years in adults, 17.5 years in males and 14.9 years in females.

“It has come to light that the highest proportion of adults in J&K (69.7%) is exposed to tobacco smoke at home, out of which 72.1% are men and 66.9% are women. 67.9% of adults are exposed to tobacco smoke at workplaces, out of which 70.6% are men, 61.4% are women and 35.2% of adults are exposed to tobacco smoke in public places, out of which 46.1% are men, 23% are women,” the survey reveals.

According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare data, nearly 37% children in India initiate smoking before the age of 10 and each day, 5500 children begin tobacco use.

“The findings of these studies highlight the need for targeted interventions among youth in general and students in particular, especially given the marketing overdrive of the tobacco industry to promote the use of tobacco among youth,” said Seema Gupta, Director Programmes at the Voluntary Health Association of India, (VHAI).

Pertinently, the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), Tobacco Control Act enacted in 2003 applicable to the entire country was mainly to discourage the consumption of tobacco products through progressive restrictions and to protect non-smokers from passive smoking.

The Tobacco Control Law prohibits smoking in public places, ban on the advertisement, Promotion and Sponsorship of all Tobacco Products and ban on the sale of tobacco to and by minors and prohibition on sale of tobacco products within 100 yards of educational institutions.

“Given such a scenario, the government of Jammu and Kashmir has to come forward to protect the health of people by supporting COTPA enforcement. The state should set an example thereby banning smoking in public places, banning tobacco advertisements at point of sale and banning the sale of tobacco products near educational institutions. With all these measures, the Government can safeguard the health of the people especially the children and women across the state,” said Afzal Mukhdoomi, Consultant Tobacco control, VHAI.

He said that the highest spending on tobacco products by the people in JK will lead to higher incidence of lung cancer and other tobacco related diseases among the people.