Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 14 August 2023

Air pollution driving antibiotic resistance

GS Paper - 3 (Health and Diseases)

Tinyinvisible particles, smaller than 30 times the breadth of human hair, wreak damage to more than 7.5 billion people’s health globally; now imagine if this microscopic particulate pollution, called PM2.5, were to drive the next global public health threat — antibiotic resistance, when disease-causing bacteria become uniquely immune to drugs.

More about the News

  • A new analysis published in the Lancet Planetary Journal suggests a link between the two: for every 10% rise in air pollution, researchers found a correlated increase in antibiotic resistance of 1.1% across countries and continents.
  • Researchers have, for long, flagged the growing burden of drug-resistant bacteriaAntimicrobial resistance (AMR, when any microbe is resistant to a drug) killed more people globally than malaria or HIV/AIDS, a 2019 survey found; it was directly responsible for 1.27 million deaths and associated with an estimated 4.95 million deaths globally.
  • The present analysis is “the first to show how air pollution affects antibiotic resistance globally” — findings which have “substantial policy and environmental implications by presenting a new pathway to combat clinical antibiotic resistance by controlling environmental pollution”.

How big a threat is antibiotic resistance?

  • Once upon a time, ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic, was used to treat urinary tract infections usually caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli), also among the most common bacteria type in IndiaE. coli’s resistance tociprofloxacin now varies from 8.4% to 92.9%, per the World Health Organisation.
  • Multidrug-resistant strains of TB (MDR-TB) have also rendered the two most potent TB drugs, isoniazid and rifampin, ineffective, with patients now having less than a 60% chance of recovery.
  • In the absence of the right drug, the patient will never recover from the infection or the disease.
  • Antibiotic resistance adds to the disease burden of a nation, making it harder to treat old enemies such as tuberculosischolera, and pneumonia, among other infectious diseases.
  • It also risks widening healthcare inequities, where patients contend with delayed recovery and extended hospitalisation.
  • Numerous statistics show India leads the world in antibiotic use. Indiscriminate use of antibiotics among people and animals, poor hygiene and sanitation facilities, and lack of awareness have fueled this rise, experts note.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated this trend, as the country witnessed a surge in sales of antibiotics such as azithromycin (used to treat bronchitis and pneumonia).

What does the study show?

  • The new analysis focuses on the environmental dissemination of ARGs. With every 1% rise in PM2.5 pollutionantibiotic resistance increased between 0.5-1.9% depending on the pathogen — a link which has only intensified with time.
  • The researchers added that this airborne spread may have also caused premature deaths in India and China, among other countries in South AsiaNorth Africa and the Middle East which are population dense.
  • An average of 18.2 million years of life was lost in 2018 worldwide, resulting in an annual economic loss of $395 billion (more than Pakistan’s GDP) due to premature deaths.
  • The paper is unique in its scale and scope: global antibiotic resistance is driven by multiple factors, one being the “effect derived from the environment, which is poorly understood in relation to antibiotic resistance”.
  • The researchers collected data from 116 countries spanning almost two decades, to observe the link between rising PM2.5 and antibiotic resistance. The researchers also analysed other predictors, including sanitation servicesantibiotic usepopulationeducationclimate.

How is air linked to antibiotic resistance?

  • Antibiotic-resistant bacteria and genes travel through different pathways: foodsoilwaterair, and even direct contact with sources such as animals.
  • The hypothesis is that ARGs, when emitted from, say, hospitals or livestock farming, could latch on to pollutant particles, which were found to contain “diverse antibiotic-resistant bacteria and antibiotic-resistance genes, which are transferred between environments and directly inhaled by humans, causing respiratory-tract injury and infection.”
  • When suspended in the environment or breathed into the lungs, the ARGs could enter the bacteria found in the human body and solidify its resistance to drugs. “PM 2.5 can facilitate the horizontal gene transfer of antibiotic-resistant genes between bacteria,” the research found.
  • PM2.5 contains a high concentration of antibiotic resistance-determinant genes, and these particles can travel far and wide due to wind speedwater evaporation, and dust transport.
  • ARGs are also more abundant in urban air particles than in sediment, soil or rivers, the analysis showed.


Parachute deployment tests for Gaganyaan

GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)

ISRO has successfully conducted a series of tests on drogue parachutes, which would play a pivotal role in stabilising the crew module and reducing its velocity to a safe level during re-entry in the planned Gaganyaan human space flight mission.

More about the Mission

  • The Gaganyaan mission hopes to safely transport astronauts to Space and backDrogue parachutes are deployed to decrease speed and stabilise rapidly moving objects.
  • ISRO's Thiruvananthapuram-based Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) successfully conducted a series of Drogue Parachute Deployment Tests at the Rail Track Rocket Sled (RTRS) facility of the Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory in Chandigarh during 8-10 August.
  • The tests were conducted in collaboration with Aerial Delivery Research and Development Establishment (ADRDE)/DRDO.
  • The drogue parachutes, packed within pyro-based devices known as mortars, are cleverly designed to eject the parachutes into the air upon command.
  • These conical ribbon-type parachutes, boasting a diameter of 5.8 metres, employ a single-stage reefing mechanism, ingeniously minimising canopy area and mitigating opening shock, ensuring a smooth and controlled descent.
  • During the three comprehensive tests conducted at the RTRS facility, a range of real-world scenarios were simulated to rigorously evaluate the performance and reliability of the drogue parachutes.
  • The first test simulated the maximum reefed load, marking a groundbreaking introduction of reefing in a mortar-deployed parachute within India.
  • The second test emulated the maximum dis-reefed load, while the third test showcased the deployment of the drogue parachute under conditions mirroring the maximum angle of attack experienced by the crew module during its mission.
  • These successful RTRS tests serve as a critical qualification milestone for the drogue parachutes, confirming their readiness for integration into the upcoming Test Vehicle-D1 mission.
  • Notably, earlier this year, theRTRS tests of Pilot and Apex cover separation parachutes were also conducted, further accentuating the progress of the Gaganyaan mission's parachute system development.
  • Theintricate parachute sequence for the Gaganyaan crew module's deceleration system encompasses a total of 10 parachutes.

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