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Tuesday,25-January-2022

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Drugs mimicking cigarette smoke may help Covid-19 therapy: Study

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 Researchers have identified two drugs that mimic the effect of chemicals in cigarette smoke and reduce the ability of SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus causing Covid-19, to enter cells.

The two drugs — 6-formylindolo(3,2-b)carbazole (FICZ) and omeprazole (OMP) mimic cigarette smoke’s effects to bind to a receptor in mammalian cells that inhibits production of ACE2 proteins, a process that appears to reduce the ability of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The findings appear in the journal Scientific Reports.

FICZ is a derivative of the amino acid tryptophan, while OMP is a medication already widely used in the treatment of acid reflux and peptic ulcers.

Something of a paradox exists with respect to smoking cigarettes and Covid-19. Active smoking is associated with increased severity of disease, but at the same time, many reports have suggested lower numbers of Covid cases amongst smokers than amongst non-smokers.

“We must stress the presence of strong evidence showing that smoking increases the severity of Covid-19,” said Keiji Tanimoto of Hiroshima University’s Research Institute for Radiation Biology and Medicine. “But the mechanism we discovered here is worth further investigation as a potential tool to fight SARS-CoV-2 infections,” Tanimoto added.

It is known that cigarette smoke contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These can bind to and activate aryl hydrocarbon receptors (AHRs).

The researchers wanted to investigate the effect of drugs that activate AHR on expression of the genes that control production of the ACE2 protein — the infamous receptor protein on the surface of many cell types that works like a lock that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is able to pick. After binding the virus to the ACE2 protein, it can then enter and infect the cell.

The scientists found that those cells originating in the oral cavity, lungs and liver had the highest ACE2 expression. These high-ACE2-expression cells were then subjected to various doses of cigarette-smoke extract for 24 hours.

Further, using RNA sequencing analysis, they found that the cigarette smoke extract and these two drugs — all of which act as activators of AHR — are able to suppress the expression of ACE2 in mammalian cells, and by doing so, reduce the ability of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to enter the cell.

Based on the findings in the lab, the team is now proceeding with pre-clinical and clinical trials on the drugs as a novel anti-Covid-19 therapy.

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Diesel, petrol prices unchanged on Saturday

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Oil marketing companies have kept the prices of diesel and petrol unchanged across major Indian cities since November 3 when the Centre and some states reduced duties on them.

Accordingly, diesel and petrol prices in Delhi stood at Rs 86.67 per litre and Rs 95.41 per litre on Saturday, respectively.

In the financial capital Mumbai, the rates were unchanged at Rs 94.14 and Rs 109.98.

Prices also remained static in Kolkata at Rs 89.79 and Rs 104.67.

In Chennai too, they remained untouched at Rs 91.43 and Rs 101.40.

Across the country as well, the price of the fuel remained largely unchanged on Saturday but the retail rates varied depending on the level of local level taxes.

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Fuel prices hold for a week despite firm global oil rates

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Petrol and diesel prices remained unchanged for the seventh consecutive day on Thursday under the daily price revision mechanism followed by oil marketing companies, thus providing further relief to consumers.

The pump price of petrol in Delhi, which fell to Rs 103.97 a litre at 6 a.m. last week on Thursday from the previous day’s level of Rs 110.04 a litre, remained at the same level. The diesel prices also remained unchanged in the capital at Rs 86.67 a litre.

In the financial capital Mumbai, petrol continued to be priced at Rs 109.98 a litre and diesel Rs 94.14 a litre.

Prices also remained static on Wednesday in Kolkata where the price of petrol reduced by Rs 5.82 to Rs 104.67 per litre and that of diesel by Rs 11.77 to Rs 89.79 per litre last week.

Petrol price in Chennai also remained at Rs 101.40 per litre and diesel Rs 91.43 per litre.

Across the country as well, the price of fuel largely remained unchanged on Thursday but the retail rates varied depending on the level of local taxes.

After softening, the global crude prices have again touched a three-year high level of over $85 a barrel now. The rise in US inventory has pushed down crude prices a bit but OPEC+ decision on only gradual increase in production in December could push up crude prices further. This could put pressure on oil companies to revise fuel prices upwards again.

Before price cuts and pause, diesel prices have increased 30 out of the last 48 days taking up its retail price by Rs 9.90 per litre in Delhi.

Petrol prices have also risen on 28 of the previous 44 days taking up the pump price by Rs 8.85 per litre.

Since January 1, petrol and diesel prices have risen by more than Rs 26 a litre before the duty cuts.

The excise duty cut by the Centre last week was the first such exercise since the onset of Covid pandemic. In fact, the government had revised excise duty on petrol and diesel sharply in March and again in May last year to mobilise additional resources for Covid relief measures.

The excise duty was raised by Rs 13 and Rs 16 per litre on petrol and diesel between March 2020 and May 2020 and was standing high at Rs 31.8 on diesel and Rs 32.9 per litre on petrol before finally the centre decided on duty cut.

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Former Himachal minister G.S Bali passes away at 67

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 Senior Congress leader and former Himachal Pradesh minister Gurmukh Singh Bali passed away on Saturday after a prolonged illness. He was 67.

The four-time legislator died at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi, his son Raghubir Singh Bali posted on his Facebook page.

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