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Tufts scientists develop new early warning system for cholera epidemics
Date:8/15/2013

MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. In two recently published papers, Tufts University School of Engineering researchers have established new techniques for predicting the severity of seasonal cholera epidemics months before they occur and with a greater degree of accuracy than other methods based on remote satellite imaging. Taken together, findings from these two papers may provide the essential lead time to strengthen intervention efforts before the outbreak of cholera in endemic regions.

Cholera is an acute diarrheal disease caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It occurs in the spring and fall in the Bengal delta. In past research, scientists have used chlorophyll, a surrogate for phytoplankton, as a measuring stick for cholera. The cholera bacteria lives and thrives among phytoplankton and zooplankton.

In the June issue of Remote Sensing Letters, Antarpreet Jutla, then a doctoral student at Tufts School of Engineering and now on the faculty at West Virginia University, was lead author on a study that measured chlorophyll and other organic matter.

The team, which was led by Shafiqul Islam, Ph.D., professor of civil and environmental engineering at Tufts School of Engineering, used satellite data to measure chlorophyll and algae, organic substances, and flora that also support growth of the cholera bacteria.

Using satellite images, the researchers created a "satellite water marker" (SWM) index to estimate the presence of organic matter including chlorophyll and plankton based on wavelength measurements.

A predominance of green, plankton-rich water which is measured at 555 nanometersindicated the degree to which the waters contained chlorophyll, plankton, and other impurities. Clear, blue watermeasured at 412 nanometersindicated low levels of these impurities, according to the researchers.

The researchers targeted the spring epidemic, which is a coastal phenomenon caused by water flow into
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Contact: Alexander Reid
Alexander.reid@tufts.edu
617-627-4173
Tufts University
Source:Eurekalert

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