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 International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

nachricht World Water Day 2017: It doesn’t Always Have to Be Drinking Water – Using Wastewater as a Resource
17.03.2017 | ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung

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: 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...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

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

When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short

23.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Researchers use light to remotely control curvature of plastics

23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Sea ice extent sinks to record lows at both poles

23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>