Found: Snake that remained hidden for 145 years

Indian researchers, in collaboration with the Natural History Museum in London, have found a new species of burrowing, non-venomous snake that has smooth, shiny scales.

The species remained misidentified and stashed among museum specimens for a long time before scientists thought it might be distinct. To confirm their doubts, they looked in the wild – and unlike many museum finds that are extinct by the time they are discovered, this one still existed. And it continues to do so in the semi-evergreen forests of the Western Ghats of India.

Read the full story at Nature India.

Photo credit: Varad Giri

A map that tells where elephants are

Ecologists have mapped Asian elephants in the Indian state of Karnataka down to the smallest forest administrative unit. The detailed map, which shows where elephants exist inside and outside protected areas, could help conservation planning and minimize human–elephant conflicts.

Karnataka has the largest population of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in India. But recent decades have witnessed increased pressure on their habitat and clashes between people and the jumbos. A detailed map of elephant distribution is crucial to understand where humans should get priority, where elephants should and where they can coexist. Yet, there is no microscopic map of Asian elephants anywhere.

Read the rest over at Nature India.

Photo credit: Subhra Priyadarshini

Mapping human proteins

An international consortium of researchers has created a catalogue of proteins that build the human tissues and organs, pinpointing which proteins are present where and at what levels. The catalogue will help in new drug development.

Part of the Human Protein Atlas project launched in 2003, the catalogue also pictures proteins in individual cells and generates an open source database of 13 million images.

To profile proteins the researchers examined 44 human tissue and organ samples using a technique that exploits antigen–antibody interaction. The antigen here is a protein in the sample and antibody a reagent that binds to the protein.

Since antibody reagents were available only for a handful of proteins, the team had to make scores of reagents in-house to be able to spot every protein. There are 20,000 odd protein-coding genes, some of which code for more than one. In all, they deployed 24,028 reagents corresponding to proteins coded by almost 17,000 genes…

Read the full story here at Nature India.

Photo credit: The Human Protein Atlas

Injectable-oral vaccine combo for polio

A single injection of inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) could boost the immunity of children already vaccinated with multiple doses of live oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV), new research suggests.

A combination of the two vaccine types in routine immunisation programmes could help achieve global eradication of poliovirus, the researchers say. OPVs are cheaper and easier to administer but the intestinal immunity they provide against the virus weakens after a while. Children vaccinated with OPV can still spread the virus through faeces.

An international team of researchers has now tested the efficacy of IPV in boosting intestinal immunity of OPV-vaccinated children. In clinical trials conducted in the Moradabad district of Uttar Pradesh, they tested stool samples of nearly a thousand infants and children vaccinated multiple times with OPV. The children were divided into random groups and given either bivalent OPV (bOPV), containing type 1 and type 3 polioviruses, or IPV. A third group (the control) was not given any vaccine.

Read more here at Nature India.