SciTech Briefs

Rotavirus cells clump in a transmission electron graph. Rotavirus causes hundreds of child deaths every day. (credit: Courtesy of Graham Beards, via Wikimedia Commons) Rotavirus cells clump in a transmission electron graph. Rotavirus causes hundreds of child deaths every day. (credit: Courtesy of Graham Beards, via Wikimedia Commons)

New and cheaper vaccine developed to fight rotavirus

A heat-stable, cheap vaccine for rotavirus has been developed by Médecins Sans Frontiéres (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, in Niger. The trial’s results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday, March 23. The new vaccine is “a game changer” according to Dr. Micaela Serafini, an MSF medical doctor.

The new vaccine could save hundreds of children per day. Rotavirus infection is the leading cause of severe diarrhea, and causes up to 1,300 child deaths per day around the world — primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. Lack of access to clean water is a strong driver of rotavirus’ spread.

Current vaccines for the virus exist, but they must be kept refrigerated at all times. This greatly limits the scope of communities the original vaccine could be delivered to. The new vaccine, named BRV-PV, is heat-stable, so it does not have to be kept in a fridge. BRV-PV is cheaper than previous versions of the vaccine, selling at $2.50.

The vaccine’s next hurdle is to be prequalified by the World Health Organization. Once this is done, it will be delivered to thousands of communities, preventing hundreds of children from dying per day around the world.

Source: Médecins Sans Frontiéres

Arianespace rocket launch delayed due to worker strikes

A rocket launch from the French Guiana space center was postponed due to a strike. The employees of two companies and a local hospital protested at the space center over salary negotiations, stopping the launch of the Ariane 5 rocket. The rocket is carrying two telecommunication satellites from South Korea and the Brazilian government. Arianespace pushed the launch to Thursday, March 22, saying a “social movement” is the cause of the delay.

Employees of Endel, a transportation company for the space center, and EDF, an energy company, set up roadblocks around the space center, halting usual operations. Endel’s management reached an agreement with employees; however, the roadblocks still remain. Surrounding schools were closed as a result, and employees had to be flown into work to access the space center. The medical employees on strike come from the medical center in Kourou.

Arianespace said in a statement, “The evolution of the situation does not permit the restart of operations for the Ariane 5 launch scheduled for today.” These companies will have to come to new agreements with their employees.

Source: The Verge

Comcast gains rights to launch a streaming service

Telecommunications conglomerate Comcast is considering joining the live TV streaming market. It has received nation-wide TV channel rights to stream some networks. However, online video does not seem to be a top priority for Comcast.

“There is significantly more upside and profitability in going deeper and deeper into our base versus following a video-only offering OTT,” said Comcast VP Matt Strauss.

The online streaming market is growing rapidly, with AT&T’s DirecTV, Amazon Prime, and Netflix making large revenue from their services. If Comcast enters the market late, this may be detrimental to their returns.

Online streaming enables users to watch their favorite shows and movies on demand. It has already changed how many people watch TV, and is projected to continue to grow as a market in the coming years. It is even a major aspect of the smart TV, which enables you to surf the internet and stream content right to your TV display.

Before Comcast can launch a more competitive streaming product, it will need to acquire the rights to many more TV channels like CBS and ESPN. This would likely take a few more months.

Source: Engadget