Navigation Links
MIT: Fighting malaria by changing the environment
Date:1/28/2009

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. Modifying the environment by using everything from shovels and plows to plant-derived pesticides may be as important as mosquito nets and vaccinations in the fight against malaria, according to a computerized analysis by MIT researchers.

The researchers have developed a new computer model for analyzing different methods of trying to control the spread of malaria, one of the world's most-devastating diseases. Among their findings using the model is that environmental measures such as leveling the land to eliminate depressions where pools can form can be an important part of the strategy for controlling the disease.

Reports on the work, carried out by Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Elfatih Eltahir and graduate students Arne Bomblies and Rebecca Gianotti, were presented this week at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

Malaria, Eltahir explained, is "a significant global health challenge" that accounts for one-third of all deaths of children under 5 worldwide. By developing new software to analyze the impacts of different methods of attempting to limit malaria's spread, which involves a complex chain of transmission between larvae, mosquitoes and humans, "we have made significant progress" toward better control of the disease, he said.

While most efforts at dealing with malaria have focused on the human side, such as attempts to develop a vaccine, Eltahir said that efforts to control environmental factors such as working to eliminate the low spots where pools of water collect during the rainy season, or applying locally grown plant materials to limit the growth of mosquitoes can have a dramatic effect on controlling malaria's spread. And unlike importing expensive medicines, such an approach can rely on local efforts as simple as having people with shovels fill in the low spots in the terrain.

"By using local tools and local labor, our approach relies less on high-technology equipment from outside the region, which tends to make the local people more dependent," he said.

In addition, the new comprehensive computer model will provide a tool for analyzing how different areas' vulnerability to malaria will be affected by a changing climate.

To validate the accuracy of the computer modeling of conditions, the team has been working for the last four years in a remote area of Niger, which lies in the Sahel desert region of northern Africa. "Africa is the hot spot for malaria in general," Eltahir explained, so this fieldwork provides substantial validation of the model.

In the field, Bomblies and others have monitored every aspect of malaria's lifecycle, including doing counts of mosquito larvae and adult mosquitoes, identifying the exact species of mosquitoes (since only specific varieties carry the malaria parasite), and mapping the topography and monitoring the size and duration of pools of water where the mosquitoes breed. "We gathered data that would serve as validation for the model that we were developing," Bomblies said.

Eliminating pools of standing water, or increasing drainage so that such pools last less than the seven to 10 days it takes for the mosquitoes to mature, can be an effective strategy, the analysis shows. In addition, it allows comparison of different methods. Filling in the low spots using shovels, it turns out, is as effective at controlling the disease as plowing the land so that water more rapidly percolates down into the soil.

That is not a new idea, but the new software provides a quantitative way to compare its impact with other approaches, and to develop specific strategies for a given region. Filling in low spots "is an established technique," said Bomblies, who has spent a total of 13 months leading the fieldwork in Niger. "But it hasn't been specifically applied in the region in which we've been working."

And unlike other approaches such as vaccinations or mosquito nets, it has a relatively permanent impact. "Once a breeding site is gone, it's gone" Bomblies said.

Other methods the team has studied include spreading ground up seeds from the neem tree, which grows locally, in the ponds, which can reduce the mosquito population by about 50 percent.

"For the first time, we have a detailed computer model" of all the different factors in the disease's spread, Eltahir said. By making it possible to run detailed simulations of a wide variety of strategies, "we can do a lot of things, in this region or elsewhere, that we could never do in the past. It can allow you to do things in a more cost-effective way."


'/>"/>

Contact: Elizabeth Thomson
thomson@mit.edu
617-258-5402
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

Related medicine news :

1. Study shines more light on benefit of vitamin D in fighting cancer
2. Cities Say Restaurant Nutrition Information Crucial in Fighting Obesity
3. Elliot Yamin: Fighting Diabetes
4. Their immune cells, fighting your cancer
5. Clean Hands are Key to Fighting Cold, Flu Germs
6. Fighting the Gassy Effects of Good Eating, From the Harvard Health Letter
7. Family Infighting Hurts the Heart
8. The Power of Community in Fighting HIV/AIDS Among Latinos
9. Fighting obesity may be as easy as ATP, says UH researcher
10. Handwashing, Masks Beat Drugs at Fighting Flu
11. Germ-Fighting Inhaler Could Fend Off Bioterror Agents
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/29/2016)... ... April 30, 2016 , ... World ... the Pick Up Springboard, an automotive invention that improves the storage features of ... worth $162 billion," says Scott Cooper, CEO and Creative Director of World Patent ...
(Date:4/29/2016)... ... 29, 2016 , ... Since launching its annual volunteer campaign ... the footwear industry, has broken all previous participation records in its first two ... states during the months of April and May, the 2016 Footwear Cares initiative ...
(Date:4/29/2016)... ... , ... Our bodies are bombarded daily by environmental and lifestyle factors that ... is to adopt a more healthful diet, but too many people think that food ... Nutritionist and the creator of the Newport Beach Cleanse and 14-Day Eating Plan, disagrees ...
(Date:4/29/2016)... ... 29, 2016 , ... Dr. Bernie Siegel, (M.D.) ... MEDICINE and MIRACLES") addresses touchy topics related to Death live on Dr. ... Dr. Bernie Siegel, author of a plethora of essential books-to-read for physicians and ...
(Date:4/29/2016)... GA (PRWEB) , ... April 29, 2016 , ... Coast ... May 16, 2016, at its new location in the Exchange Furniture Mall at 112 ... raffle for a 50-inch Samsung Smart TV. Plus attendees will have the opportunity to ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:4/27/2016)... 2016 Oasmia Pharmaceutical AB ... a new generation of drugs within human and ... for Paclical/Apealea in the Phase III study that ... ovarian cancer. These preliminary results showed non-inferiority between ... carboplatin versus Taxol in combination with carboplatin. In ...
(Date:4/27/2016)... April 27, 2016 At the ... launch of a Phase 2 clinical study of its ... patients undergoing cochlear implantation (CI) surgery. This large, placebo-controlled, ... Germany and France ... ear at the time of surgery. "Despite advances in ...
(Date:4/26/2016)... 26, 2016 US demand for infection ... 4.9 percent annually to $27.6 billion in 2020.  ... to decrease rates of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) will ... and services.  Although declining, the overall rate of ... levels set by the CDC.  Recent statistics indicate ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: