Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Solving The Ebola Enigma: Satellites Will Provide Clues

23.12.2003


As a new outbreak of Ebola haemorrhagic fever strikes northwestern Congo, ESA is set to gather satellite data to help resolve the scientific enigma of this deadly disease.


Extract of a radar image centred on a cliff which works as a geographical barrier between two regions in the studied area : on the left, outbreaks have been registered, on the right, none have taken place. Satellite data being supplied to CIRMF researchers may help highlight patterns in the way Ebola strikes to help discover the mysterious host organism of the virus.

Credits: CIRMF


This CIRMF map illustrates the first source locations of Ebola virus outbreaks since 1994 along north eastern Gabon and the west basin of the Republic of Congo.

Credits: CIRMF



Whenever Ebola strikes Central Africa it can kill in large numbers. More than two dozen people have so far died during the latest epidemic, centred on the town of Mbomo in the Cuvette West region of Congo, near the Gabon border.

The disease causes runaway internal bleeding in humans and also apes. The Ebola virus undoubtedly has its home in deep tropical jungle, but its natural host organism or ’reservoir’ remains unknown.


"Humans get infected only when an individual gets into contact with an already-infected animal," said Ghislain Moussavou of the Gabon-based International Centre for Medical Research (CIRMF).

"In Gabon and Congo there were no human outbreaks between 1998 and 2000, but we can’t affirm no outbreak occurred among some fauna. Mostly it is the animal population that is damaged – particularly gorillas and chimpanzees."

The origin of the current Congo outbreak has been traced back to the end of October, when hunters from Mbomo ate a wild boar they found dead in the jungle.

The very fact infected animals sicken and die shows they are not the elusive Ebola reservoir. CIRMF – equipped with a rare Level 4 Biosafety Laboratory engineered for the study of dangerous pathogens – is on the hunt for whatever organism actually serves as the long-term virus host by testing the blood of captured jungle animals.

The sheer biological diversity and geographical inaccessibility of the Central African rainforest makes that a difficult task.

However from next year ESA will be supplying Earth Observation (EO) data of the region to CIRMF as one component of a new project called Epidemio.

Moussavou hopes that this data - once imported into geographical information system (GIS) software - may provide some additional clues: "Characterising the ecological parameters of the whole area of study just can’t be done just by ground-based means. But remote sensing and GIS can do it at low cost, and with regular updating a possibility.

"The CIRMF team carrying out the serological study on animal populations concentrates its efforts on the gorilla sanctuary of Lossi in Congo, where a high mortality of gorillas has been documented during previous epidemics. But Lossi is located in deep forest, more than 15km from the nearest vehicle track. The sanctuary itself measures 400 sq km, and a total sampling is practically impossible in time and space.

"Assuming there are many deep forest locations infected by the virus, and with the goal in mind of diversifying the areas sampled to improve the results of the serological study, a preliminary identification and description of these sites is necessary. Remote sensing can help identify such sites and focus the efforts there."

By mapping the areas where infected animals are found within a GIS, areas with similar environmental features can be highlighted as suspected sites for priority study. And in future CIRMF plans to begin a study of Ebola antibody prevalence in the human population, helping to identify potential infection risk zones.

"With a GIS we can manage, organise and display data from a variety of different sources," Moussavou added. "Assuming this, our approach includes spatial and temporal study of the dynamics of vegetation state, fluctuations in water body levels and climate changes – all of which we can obtain from satellites."

Detailed meteorological data – currently almost non-existent – could be important because the periodicity of Ebola outbreaks points to a seasonal component: "This suggests particular ecological conditions could characterise the reservoir host habitat," Moussavou concluded.

Simon Pinnock | ESA
Further information:
http://www.esa.int/export/esaCP/SEMWG5VZJND_Improving_0.html

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>