Using New Technologies for More Efficient Tropical Medicine

The goal is more efficient tropical medicine: Researchers hang one of the mosquito-counting devices they built with expertise from Bremen outdoors. It was developed together with partners from Thailand and Portugal.
© Anna Förster

Interdisciplinary top-level research in the field of tropical medicine is the goal of a new transnational network of excellence being established under the leadership of Professor Anna Förster of the University of Bremen. It is being funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

For many years, the University of Bremen has been cooperating with one of the best universities in Thailand, Mahidol University in Bangkok. It is one of the strategic partners of the University of Bremen. A highlight of the long-standing and fruitful cooperation was the establishment of a joint research laboratory on the topic of “Medical Informatics” (Mahidol-Bremen Medical Informatics Research Unit, MIRU) in Thailand in 2018.

Now, this partnership will be further expanded: The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) is funding the establishment of a network of excellence for interdisciplinary cutting-edge research in the field of tropical medicine with around 300,000 euros. “Our goal is to build a community and training center that will promote the use of advanced information and communication technologies for various problems and applications in this field,” says Anna Förster, a professor of computer science in Bremen. She is leading the four-year project that has just started. “In addition to Thai experts from research, politics, and business, researchers from Vietnam, Portugal, and France are also represented in this new international network.”

Thematically, the focus is on improvements in tropical disease control. “This is a very complex issue,” explains Professor Peter Haddawy of Mahidol University. “We need to monitor the interaction between the human population and the environment, as well as ensure rapid response to disease outbreaks and effective diagnosis and treatment.” One approach to this, he said, is to collect information, integrate it across the various processes involved, and evaluate it. “The improved results have high validity and thus the potential to make disease control more effective.”

Under Development: Device for Counting Mosquitoes in the Open Air

From a technical point of view, the Internet of Things (IoT), data science approaches, and mobile computing techniques are the main areas being used. This is where the expertise of Anna Förster and her research group comes into play. The professor is the chair of the Communication Networks department at the Institute for Telecommunications and High-Frequency Techniques at the University of Bremen and devotes most of her research to the field of self-organizing networks. “One example of this is a research project that is already underway, in which we are developing a device for outdoor mosquito counting together with our partners in Thailand and Portugal,” Anna Förster reports. “Thanks to this device, decision-makers should later know how many mosquitoes there are and which mosquito species are buzzing around. This will then help them make decisions about what countermeasures to take.”

To develop and effectively use such tools and improve human, animal, and environmental health, a strong network of experts in each field must be firmly established. Subsequently, these experts spread the knowledge as part of a One Health approach. This approach is based on the understanding that human, animal, and environmental health are closely interrelated.

Launch with Workshop and Summer School in June

To kick-off the new network of excellence, partners from all over the world will meet at the University of Bremen in June. After the kick-off workshop from June 23 to 25, a summer school will then take place from June 27 to July 1. “We are expecting around 30 national and international guests,” says Professor Förster, looking forward to the launch. “For the future, we are planning targeted activities in the areas of teaching, research, and management. Course material on advanced information technologies in tropical medicine will be developed with the participation of practitioners, integrated into existing curricula, and made freely available online.”

To build research capacity, initial joint projects are planned in areas such as dengue fever prediction, as well as the aforementioned sensor networks for mosquito vector counting and collaborative virtual environments for decision-making support in disease control.

Further Information:

https://miru.ict.mahidol.ac.th
www.ict-trop-med.net
www.uni-bremen.de/en/

Contact:

Prof. Dr. Anna Förster
Communication Networks Department
Faculty of Physics / Electrical Engineering
University of Bremen,
Phone: +49 421 218-62383
Email: anna.foerster@uni-bremen.de

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