Also, California scientists develop a system for translating brain signals to speech, and measles surpasses an unwelcome milestone

Distribution of World’s First Malaria Vaccine Begins

(Shawna Williams, The Scientist, 4/23/19)

The World Health Organization (WHO) and its various partners are starting a malaria vaccine program in Malawi, with plans to expand to Ghana and Kenya. The vaccine is the first ever developed for use against a parasite, but it only prevents four out of ten cases of malaria and must be administered four times. Along with the distribution of mosquito nets and better insecticides, WHO officials are hoping to curb the high number of malaria-related deaths in Africa every year.

Mind-reading device uses AI to turn brainwaves into audible speech

(Chelsea Whyte, New Scientist, 4/24/19)

University of California San Francisco (UCSF) scientists developed a system for translating brain signals to speech. They tested the device by recruiting five patients who already had electrodes surgically implanted in their brains for epilepsy treatment. The patients read out loud while the electrodes recorded signals from the motor cortex that tell the mouth, jaw, and larynx how to move to produce sounds. A computer program is used to match signals with specific sounds, making this two-part system a potentially promising tool to translate the words of patients who can no longer speak.

A Disturbing Record on the Measles Front

(Lena Sun, Washington Post, 4/25/19)

US cases of measles have now exceeded the highest number of cases in a single year since the communicable disease was eliminated in 2000. And it’s only the end of April. In a statement late Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the United States is seeing “a resurgence of measles, a disease that had once been effectively eliminated from our country. … Measles is not a harmless childhood illness, but a highly contagious, potentially life-threatening disease.”

—Compiled by Senior Scientific Writer Mary Parker