Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Satellites monitoring dust storms linked to health risk

11.05.2005


Medical researchers are using satellites to track massive dust storms blowing across Africa’s Sahel belt. The aim is to learn more about lethal meningitis epidemics that often follow in the dust’s wake.



"Meningitis outbreaks take place after a period without rain, low humidity and lots of dust in the air," explained Isabelle Jeanne of the Niger-based Centre de Recherche Médicale et Sanitaire (CERMES), associated with the international network des Instituts Pasteur and a partner in ESA’s Epidemio project. "The exact correlation is not yet known. But making use of satellite data enables us to follow week by week the development of the dust storms and the appearance of conditions favourable for an epidemic to start."

Meningitis is an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord lining known to cause seizures and deafness in those victims it does not kill outright. Meningococcal meningitis – caused by the meningococcus bacteria – is the only form of the disease to spread in epidemic form. Outbreaks occur throughout the world but are most common in the ’meningitis belt’ of semi-arid sub-Saharan territory known as the Sahel.


Meningitis mainly attacks children and young adults. The 18 nations of the Sahel have under-resourced healthcare systems: without treatment 70% of cases will perish, though with prompt anti-biotic therapy the death rate is reduced to one in ten.

Researchers want to study the hypothesis that the Sahel dry season – when wind-blown dust of talcum-powder-consistency can fill the arid air – makes the 300 million inhabitants of this region much more vulnerable to meningitis infection.

The source of infection is other people: up to a quarter of the people may be carrying the source of the meningocuccus bacteria without symptoms, spreading the infection through overcrowded living conditions by droplets from coughing or throat secretions. Normally meningococcus dwells harmlessly in the nose and throat – it is only when it gets into the bloodstream it becomes a potential killer.

"The dryness and dust does not spread the bacteria directly," Jeanne explained. "Instead it seems as though the irritation caused to local inhabitants’ mucus membranes renders them more vulnerable to bacterial infection. However an epidemic begins to decrease as soon as the first rain comes."

Therapeutic vaccination is a possibility, and drugs are available to lower morbidity levels. With supplies limited, it would be helpful to be able to anticipate the likeliest times and places of fresh outbreaks.

For this reason, during the last dry season, ESA has been supplying weekly dust maps of the Sahel as part of an early warning system. The maps are based on daily images from the Meteosat Visible and InfraRed Imager (MVIRI) aboard the ESA-built Meteosat-7 geostationary weather satellite.

"The dust maps have been very useful so far," Jeanne added. "There have been no meningitis outbreaks this year - fortunately for the inhabitants - so we cannot show a correlation as yet. The next planned step is to obtain archived images for the last ten years, to search for correlations against our records."

This activity is part of a wide-ranging ESA Data User Element project called Epidemio, developing Earth Observation (EO) services for epidemiologists.

Led for ESA by the company Jena-Optronik GmbH, with partners including the World Health Organisation (WHO), Epidemio is based on the principle that more detailed information on the environments within which infectious diseases occur can help epidemiologists study, understand and predict threats to human health.

Mariangela D’Acunto | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esa.int/esaEO/SEMZ5WY5D8E_environment_0.html

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Malaria Already Endemic in the Mediterranean by the Roman Period
27.07.2017 | Universität Zürich

nachricht Serious children’s infections also spreading in Switzerland
26.07.2017 | Universitätsspital Bern

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Physicists Design Ultrafocused Pulses

Physicists working with researcher Oriol Romero-Isart devised a new simple scheme to theoretically generate arbitrarily short and focused electromagnetic fields. This new tool could be used for precise sensing and in microscopy.

Microwaves, heat radiation, light and X-radiation are examples for electromagnetic waves. Many applications require to focus the electromagnetic fields to...

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Physicists gain new insights into nanosystems with spherical confinement

27.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

Seeing more with PET scans: New chemistry for medical imaging

27.07.2017 | Life Sciences

Did you know that infrared heat and UV light contribute to the success of your barbecue?

27.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>