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 Study tracks inner workings of the brain with new biosensor
16.08.2018 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

nachricht Foods of the future
15.08.2018 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

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: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Climate Impact Research in Hannover: Small Plants against Large Waves

17.08.2018 | Life Sciences

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Quantum material is promising 'ion conductor' for research, new technologies

17.08.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>