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Princeton study: Nighttime images help track disease from the sky
Date:12/8/2011

plexity of carrying out large-scale vaccinations. She and her co-authors found, however, that monitoring changes in nighttime lights clearly indicates where and when a population is expanding and where an epidemic would most likely occur.

"Once you establish the patterns of epidemics, you can adjust your intervention strategy," Bharti said. "We turned to this technique because there is really no other way to get any idea of how populations are changing in a place like Niger. That's true throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa and a lot of other places in the world.

"This method isn't limited to understanding measles think about malaria or meningitis," Bharti said. "These diseases are geographically specific, for the most part, to areas where this would be a useful technique. These are places that are not so industrialized that they will always be saturated with brightness and where there may be some level of agricultural dependence so that there are detectable labor migrations."

Bharti, who works in the lab of co-author Bryan Grenfell, a Princeton professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and public affairs, also worked with second author Andrew Tatem, a geography professor at the University of Florida; Matthew Ferrari, a biology professor at Pennsylvania State University; Rebecca Grais, an epidemiologist with Epicentre, the Paris-based research branch of Doctors Without Borders; and Ali Djibo of the Niger Ministry of Health.

The trouble with tracking migratory populations

Deborah Balk, a professor at the City University of New York and associate director of the university's Institute for Demographic Research, said the researchers' use of city-scale nighttime-lights imagery to examine the spread of disease is "pathbreaking" and offers significant advantages over more common techniques.

Images of nighttime lights have typically been used to study urbanization and economic development, as well as physica
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Contact: Morgan Kelly
mgnkelly@princeton.edu
609-258-5729
Princeton University
Source:Eurekalert  

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