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Satellites to track parasites soon


Scientists have teamed up to use satellite data for targeting deadly parasites and help predict patterns of parasitic diseases such as malaria, worms and hydatids (infection by the larval stage of the dog tapeworm).

The team has successfully organised trials for malaria in Bhutan, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands and is now seeking support to scale up to larger countries.

Additionally, spatial predictions for other diseases such as worms and hydatids are being developed for China, the Philippines and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

"Some diseases are highly sensitive to their environment, especially parasitic diseases. With remote sensing, you can identify places where disease flourishes," said Archie Clements from the Australian National University.

The team uses satellite data such as temperature, rainfall, vegetation and land usage and combines it with health data in a geographical information system.

The approach combines the skills of many scientists, such as entomologists, epidemiologists, software developers, social scientists and health policy specialists.

"The result is maps that are accessible to countries with limited capacity for managing disease data, tailored to their local needs," Clements added.

Parasitic diseases affect hundreds of millions of people every year, many of them in the least developed parts of the world.

"By taking this research the next step, we have the opportunity to have a meaningful impact on the real world, and save a lot of lives," Clements said.