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As wind drops and stubble smoulders, smog returns to New Delhi

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Air quality in India’s capital, New Delhi, deteriorated sharply on Tuesday as wind died down just as the burning of crop waste in fields sent smoke billowing across the north of the country.

A smoggy haze settled over the city, reducing visibility significantly, as the Air Quality Index (AQI) rose past 300 on a scale of 500, indicating “very poor” conditions that pose a risk of respiratory problems, according to the federal pollution control board’s guidance.

“Wind speed was supposed to pick up due to a deep depression in the Bay of Bengal, but that did not happen,” SAFAR, India’s main environment monitoring agency, said in its daily bulletin.

Lower wind speeds let deadly pollutants like PM2.5 particles hang in the air.

PM2.5, particles that are less than 2.5 microns in diameter, can be carried deep into the lungs, causing deadly diseases, including cancer and cardiac problems.

“The AQI is likely to be in the very poor to a poor category for the next two days,” SAFAR said, as the burning of crop waste, which accounts for about a quarter of air pollution in winter months, picked up.

Every winter, a thick blanket of smog settles over northern India as a combination of factors such as the burning of stubble in fields, industrial emissions and vehicle exhaust brings a spike in pollution.

Since Oct. 1, Delhi’s average AQI was more than 36% higher than the figures for the same period a year ago, according to data compiled by Reuters.

Up until September, New Delhi and its satellite cities, which last year accounted for half of the dozen most-polluted cities worldwide, had enjoyed respite due to a strict lockdown to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Reporting by Neha Arora; Editing by Mayank Bhardwaj, Robert Birsel

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Teicoplanin, an antibiotic, could be potential medicine for Covid-19: IIT Delhi research

© Provided by Hindustan Times

Teicoplanin, an antibiotic medicine, may be a potential option for treating coronavirus disease (Covid-19) patients, according to a research conducted by scientists at Kusuma School of Biological Sciences (KSBS) in Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Delhi.

In laboratory experiments, the medicine effectively inhibited the activity of the 3CLpro enzyme that is needed for replication of the Sars-CoV-2 virus, which causes Covid-19.

The medicine was found to be up to 20 times more effective in inhibiting the activity of 3CLpro than some of the medicines that have been used in Covid-19 patients such as anti-malarial drug Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and Chloroquine, antibiotic Azithromycin, and anti-Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) medicine Lopinavir.

Also Read: Covid-19: India’s tests per million population cross 50k-mark

“Covid-19 has affected millions of people across the world and there is no specific treatment for the viral infection. We have been working for the last seven to eight months to find possible treatment for the infection. We started looking at drugs that are already approved and are in the market. If found effective, these drugs will be available for the treatment of Covid-19 patients,” said Dr Ashok Patel, assistant professor at KSBS, IIT-Delhi.

Earlier, KSBS was the first academic institute to develop a novel and cheaper reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) kit to conduct a Covid-19 test.

The researchers decided to make the 3CLpro enzyme that they knew was the key for viral replication because a biosafety level (BSL)-3 laboratory—a requirement for any institute wanting to work on the Sars-CoV-2 virus—was not available.

They found a way around to conduct the research about the virus that enters a human body and replicates within cells to cause Covid-19.

Also Read: Moderna Covid-19 vaccine appears safe, shows signs of working in older adults: Study

“We created a list of about 100 existing medicines that we thought could attack the captain of the cricket team, the 3CLpro protease (enzyme) that is crucial for viral replication. After testing, we found 11 molecules that were responding to this viral protein, which included the medicines already in use such as Azithromycin, Chloroquine, Lopinavir and even Oseltamivir that are used to treat H1N1, or swine flu. But, Teicoplanin turned out to be upto 20 times more effective than the other medicines,” said Dr Patel.

The researchers collaborated with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, for some advanced testing.

“Unlike HCQ, which is harmful for the heart, there aren’t any major side-effects of Teicoplanin,” he said. The institute did not have ethical clearance for human trials. However, these trials would be needed to prove that the medicine is, indeed, effective in treating the viral infection, he added.

“Teicoplanin is an approved broad spectrum antibiotic that is given to patients, especially in critical care, for various reasons. It is an interesting finding. However, viral culture studies and small human trials have to be conducted before it can be approved for an off-label use, which refers to a use of a medicine