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Case Western Reserve professor helps control infectious diseases with models and math
Date:12/19/2008

make predictions." he said. "Essentially you create the tool to run experiments that would be prohibitive or unfeasible in real life. It's like creating virtual mice in the computer. "

By examining past cases and gathering statistics related to the disease, the researchers are able to further fine-tune their algorithms and models. The models quantify things like effects of drug treatments or socioeconomic conditions, giving those working towards a cure data, facts and figures to guide public health policies.

The most recent project looked at the effect of schistosomiasis on late-age morbidity and early-childhood development. It examined the potential value of focused prescreening efforts. The researchers found prescreening had little effect in areas where initial mass treatment covered a large fraction of the population, allowing future treatment to focus on areas that lack the initial coverage.

Models and the results often take the form of graphs, charts, equations and procedures based on the specifics of each case. Understanding the basic biology of host-parasite interactions is important, says Gurarie, but other factors like population dynamics, control history, environmental and social factors all come into play.

Gurarie's malaria research looks at the development of drug - resistance by the malaria parasite, as well as the insecticide resistance by carrier mosquitoes. He published several papers with his colleagues at Case Western Reserve and at the National Institutes of Health (F. Ellis McKenzie).

"In the past to fight malaria, scientists have used drug treatment and insecticides (to kill mosquitoes which carry malaria) on a mass scale. For a while the strategy has worked; they were able to reduce malaria incidence to small numbers," he said. "It all lasted until the parasite developed resistance to drugs and mosquitoes to insecticides, which reversed most of earlier progress. Today we see a dramatic upsurge
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Contact: Jason A. Tirotta
jason.tirotta@case.edu
216-368-6890
Case Western Reserve University
Source:Eurekalert

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