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Below is a round up of news from or about South Asia for the period 2–14 October 2009.

Biofuel from water hyacinths
Scientists have devised a method to churn out biofuel from the aquatic weed water hyacinth. They worked out the optimal enzyme combinations for producing fermentable sugars from water hyacinth and turn it into alcohol. More>>

Climate models downscaled for local use
Scientists have devised a new method for downscaling global climate change models to make them suitable for use at the local regional level and on a daily basis. As a test case, they successfully used the new method to predict climate change over India's Mahanadi river basin and report it will be in for more wet days; and more rainfall on these days. More>>

Bhutan to introduce Hib vaccine
Bhutan's health ministry will introduce a vaccine against haemophilus influenza type B (Hib), a leading cause of pneumonia and meningitis in children aged 15 and under in the country. The vaccine will be given together with four other vaccines against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and hepatitis B. More>>

Tomato virus genes silenced
Scientists have devised a technique to 'silence', or prevent replication of, the genes of the tomato leaf curl virus that stunts the growth and reduces the yield of tomato crops in tropical and sub-tropical regions. They inserted strands of the virus's RNA — a feature of its genetic material — into the plant, which are cancelled out when plants are infected with tomato leaf curl virus and meet matching RNA strands. More>>

Common cervical cancer types identified in northern India
Scientists have identified the most common types of human papillomavirus — responsible for cervical cancer — in northern India. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer among Indian women, with an estimated 132,000 new cases and 74,000 deaths annually. The HPV vaccine is generally well-received across the country, but there are financial barriers. More>>

Electricity from vegetable waste
Scientists have devised a microbial fuel cell — a device that coverts chemical energy into electrical energy using microorganisms — that generates electricity from vegetable waste. The microorganisms break down the waste in the absence of oxygen to generate electricity. More>>

Medical plastic from silk proteins
A protein present in the silk-producing glands of silkworms could help make biopolymers with potential biomedical uses. Scientists produced membranes from the sericin protein in the Antheraea mylitta silkworm, which were found to be strong, stable at high temperatures and biocompatible. More>>

Microbial cocktail bio-fertiliser
A new biofertiliser from Sri Lanka, based on a mix of two or more types of bacteria, fungi and algae, could replace around half of the chemical fertilisers in the tea industry. The microbial mix forms a coating on the plants' roots and improves the ability to absorb nitrogen from the atmosphere for growth — as well as making the plants more resistant to drought and the shot-hole borer, a common tea pest. More>>

Selenium mopping plants
Scientists have measured the levels of selenium in a range of crops and weeds across northwestern India, to identify species that can absorb selenium from the soil and reduce the presence of the toxic mineral in food crops. They report that that the sunflower (Helianthus annuus), winter wild oat (Avena ludoviciana), horse mint (Mentha longifolia) and creeping thistle (Cirsium arvense) accumulate the highest amounts of the mineral. More>>

Compiled by T. V. Padma. Additional reporting by Papri Sri Raman

If you would like to suggest a story for this news in brief, please contact the South Asia Regional Coordinator T. V. Padma ([email protected]).

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