Thursday, 5 March 2015

Scientists Track Parasites with Satellites

Satellite Data to Combat Parasitic Diseases 

Latest reports is that scientists are now developing a system of using satellite data to combat parasitic diseases such as malaria, hydatids and worms and this new project is an example of progress in the field of disease research, wherein updated tools like spatial statics are rendering support to developers in bringing together the earth observations as well as disease data in order to analyse and foreseen the pattern of disease.

We find several types of parasites; organisms which tend to live in a host and cause diseases in humans. While some parasitic diseases could be treated easily, there are others which are not easily treated such as malaria. Several of the parasitic diseases are mostly found in the tropics as well as in subtropics, where the burden tends to fall on the under developed countries affecting hundreds of millions of people annually.

At a recent AAAS Annual Meeting in San Jose, CA, professor and a leader of the new project at the Australian National University in Canberra, Archie Clements, informed delegates, on how a system like the one they were working on could be helpful for developing countries to target scarce resources to the greatest effect. Professor Clements is also a director of the University’s Research School of Population Health.

Geographical Information System – GIS 

Professor Clements states that some diseases could be highly sensitive to their environment especially parasitic diseases and with remote sensing; one can identify the areas where diseases could spread. He, together with his colleagues is on the project of developing a method of combining satellite data with health data in a computerized geographical information system – GIS. The purpose of utilising the GIS is that decision maker could locate the high risk location quickly and check for sufficient resources for these areas.

The satellite data comprises of information about the climate as well as land conditions like the temperature, vegetation, rainfall and land usage. Moreover, the team is also gathering on the knowledge of entomologist, software developers, epidemiologist, social scientists as well as health policy specialists in order to ensure that the GIS data is rich and useful to the maximum. He further explains that `the result is maps which are accessible to countries with limited capacity in managing disease data, tailored to their local needs’.

Meaningful Impact on the World 

The new system has been tried is areas like Bhutan, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands to track malaria and the team is now on the lookout for sponsorship in order to support them in applying the system, to larger countries. They are striving in the development of the GIS to predict worms as well as hydatids which is a kind of tapeworm that could be transmitted by dogs coming in contact with sheep in China, Philippines and the other countries in the of Asia Pacific countries.Prof. Clements is of the opinion that the research could help authorities in the developing countries to fight against parasitic diseases and by taking up this research they are provided with an opportunity in having a meaningful impact on the world thereby saving the lives of many.

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