Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists use cell phone records to predict spread of malaria

18.12.2009
University of Florida researchers at work on a malaria elimination study in Africa have become the first to predict the spread of the disease using cell phone records.

The scientists analyzed more than 21 million calls to determine how often residents of Zanzibar travel and where they go. A semi-autonomous region composed of two islands off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa, Zanzibar has drastically reduced malaria in recent years. Its government commissioned the study as part of deliberations on whether to launch a total elimination campaign.

The calls indicated that most residents who leave the region make short trips to Dar es Salaam on the Tanzanian mainland nearby, where malaria is relatively uncommon. However, they also revealed that a few Zanzibar residents travel back and forth from more distant areas of Tanzania where the risk of getting the disease is much higher — posing the greatest threat to elimination.

“That group of the population is the real risk if Zanzibar wants to eliminate malaria,” said Andy Tatem, an assistant professor of geography, member of UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, and lead author of a paper on the research likely to appear in the January issue of the Malaria Journal. “That is the population group that is likely to be continually reintroducing infection.”

Malaria is not transmissible from person to person. But if infected elsewhere, travelers can be bitten by mosquitoes once back in Zanzibar — and those mosquitoes could then fly on to bite and infect other Zanzibar residents, forestalling elimination.

Over the past decade, Zanzibar’s aggressive campaign against malaria has reduced infections from as much as 40 percent of its 1.2 million people to less than 1 percent, Tatem said. The country is weighing the cost of a campaign to eliminate the disease against the cost of continuing indefinitely with the control measures now in place. Its government commissioned what Tatem described as Africa’s first “elimination feasibility study,” including the travel research.

Most Zanzibar residents journey to and from mainland Tanzania via four- to six-hour ferry trips, but records of their origin and destinations are poor, Tatem said. Inspired by recent cell phone-based epidemiological research in Europe, he and five colleagues obtained records of three months of calls from customers of the Zanzibar Telephone Company, which covers all of Zanzibar and Tanzania.

The October-December 2008 records, which contained no names or other identifying information, tracked the movements of a 770,369 customers by showing each customer’s calls and where the calls originated — or at least the region where the call originated.

So, for example, the researchers could see that a person made calls from Zanzibar’s main city of Stone Town Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but on Thursday and Friday from Dar es Salaam.

Most callers never left Zanzibar, which means they posed no threat of reintroducing the Malaria parasite, Tatem said. About 12 percent did leave the islands, but most of those only visited relatively safe Dar es Salaam, and usually for just one or two days at a time.

However, a few hundred residents made trips to regions of western and southern parts of Tanzania, where as many as 40 percent of the residents have the malaria parasite.

The cell records did not reveal any information about the threat from non-residents visiting Zanzibar. Many visitors to the historic center of the spice trade are likely to be tourists who either come from countries where malaria is not a problem or are taking anti-malarial drugs, so pose little threat for malaria importation. However, mainland residents visiting for work may carry infections, so future work will need to assess these risks too, Tatem said.

Tatem said the study gives Zanzibar’s government several options should it move forward with elimination. The government could choose to give Zanzibar residents prophylactics against malaria before they travel, or it could screen all residents as they return, both very expensive propositions. Or it could launch a targeted information and/or screening campaign aimed at the high-risk travelers.

Zanzibar will use the study in combination with another study — of the challenges and costs of eliminating the remaining infections within the country — to make its decision.

“Going for elimination can be very expensive, much more expensive than continuing with current sustained control, involving giving people bed nets (to protect against mosquito bites at night), spraying the inside of houses with insecticide and providing anti-malarial drugs,” he said. “But in the very long term the savings having no malaria may outweigh those costs.”

Credits

Writer
Aaron Hoover, ahoover@ufl.edu, 352-392-0186
Source
Andy Tatem, andy.tatem@gmail.com, 352-219-8639

Andy Tatem | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ufl.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Multi-year study finds 'hotspots' of ammonia over world's major agricultural areas
17.03.2017 | University of Maryland

nachricht Diabetes Drug May Improve Bone Fat-induced Defects of Fracture Healing
17.03.2017 | Deutsches Institut für Ernährungsforschung Potsdam-Rehbrücke

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers shoot for success with simulations of laser pulse-material interactions

29.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Igniting a solar flare in the corona with lower-atmosphere kindling

29.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

As sea level rises, much of Honolulu and Waikiki vulnerable to groundwater inundation

29.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>