Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Modus operandi: how satellites track a mass killer


Baby suffering from malaria
Photo: WHO/Pierre Virot 2001

A global mass killer could be tamed with the aid of satellite technology. Scientists are using data from Meteosat to help model and predict outbreaks of malaria. "Satellite sensor data hold out hope for the development of early-warning systems for diseases such as malaria, which kills between 1 and 2 million people each year," says David Rogers, of Oxford University’s Department of Zoology.

Rogers is part of a team based in Oxford, Nairobi and at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Maryland, who are using Meteosat and other satellite climate data to create mathematical models of the prevalence and spread of malaria, and the dynamics of outbreaks of the disease.
"Malaria takes its greatest toll in sub Saharan Africa," explains Rogers, "but the failure of affordable drugs, population growth and poverty are all contributing to a steady increase in the scale of the problem." It is against this background that interest in using satellite surveillance to map and predict malaria outbreaks is growing.

Malaria is a parasitic disease, spread by mosquitoes from infected to healthy people. With today’s satellite technology, scientists now have the ability to map climate conditions with the kind of detail and timeliness required to model the behaviour of the parasite’s mosquito vectors.

"Mosquito populations can grow and collapse in a few days," explains Rogers, "and some species live in very small pools of water - even in up-turned coconut shells - so we really need all the temporal and spatial resolution we can get. One of my colleagues once suggested we needed a ’Puddle-sat’ to identify mosquito breeding areas."

Several climate factors affect the mosquito population. David Rogers explains: "Temperature, humidity and rainfall are all important to mosquitoes at different stages of their life cycle but the relative importance of each varies in different places. In cold places, temperature limits the population and water generally doesn’t. In warmer places temperature is usually not limiting but water may be. In the hottest of places, all three factors tend to be limiting."
The team has been searching for the best correlation between climate factors and the incidence of malaria. The situation is complicated by the fact that the relationship between the number of mosquitoes and the number of cases of malaria is not a simple one; the inherent resistance or immunity of the local people to the disease varies in cycles and the reporting and recording of actual cases of infection on the ground is patchy at best.

To help deal with this problem, the team have found that a measure of plant growth is in fact very well matched to reported cases of malaria in many locations in East Africa, so perhaps that index can be used to ’fill in the gaps’ in the patchy medical data.

The team believe they have now begun to see some clear patterns emerging in the correlation of Meteosat cloud and rainfall data and malaria outbreaks, as a paper in the journal Nature, published last week explains. But, adds David Rogers "no prediction is ever 100% correct, so we see our work as progressively approximating the real situation on the ground in a continuing loop - make a prediction, check it on the ground, find and investigate wrong predictions and make a better model."

With climate change threatening to change the prevalence of diseases like malaria, it is more important than ever to develop good techniques for predicting their behaviour. "It is clear that the technologies we now have to study these diseases are far better than those available to malariologists in the early years of the last century. The challenge is to make the science of malaria prediction at least as good," concludes David Rogers. "All epidemiologists are looking forward to the greater information content of Meteosat SecondGeneration (MSG) data".

The first MSG, developed by ESA in cooperation with EUMETSAT, will be launched by EUMETSAT this summer.

Evangelina Oriol-Pibernat | ESA

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht NIH scientists describe potential antibody treatment for multidrug-resistant K. pneumoniae
14.03.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

nachricht Researchers identify key step in viral replication
13.03.2018 | University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

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: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>