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 Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

nachricht A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

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: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fraunhofer ISE Pushes World Record for Multicrystalline Silicon Solar Cells to 22.3 Percent

25.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance

25.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

An international team of physicists a coherent amplification effect in laser excited dielectrics

25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>