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Watching water from space could aid disease prevention in China
Date:12/18/2008

COLUMBUS, Ohio Scientists are looking to outer space for help in their attempt to prevent new outbreaks of the tropical disease schistosomiasis in southern China.

Once the Three Gorges Dam is fully operational, researchers plan to use satellite data from space to determine whether changing water conditions in Poyang Lake, China's largest freshwater lake, create favorable conditions for the snails associated with the chronic disease that can damage internal organs and impair growth and cognitive development in children.

Adult and juvenile snails living in stagnant tropical freshwater lakes and ponds serve as hosts during part of the life cycle of schistosomes, the family of parasite species that cause schistosomiasis infections in warm climates around the world.

The scientists hope to combine data on changing water levels with biological information about the snails' behavior. This should help inform public health officials on ways to reduce schistosomiasis infection in the Poyang Lake region between the Three Gorges Dam and Shanghai.

"Really, the only prevention is to not touch the water," said Motomu Ibaraki, an associate professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University and the leader of the research project. "What we hope we can do is point to the most dangerous areas for schistosomiasis transmission based on predictions we can calculate about the snail habitat."

Ibaraki described the research at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco. The project represents an emerging field, combining the expertise of specialists in hydrology and infectious diseases to tackle public health problems, he said.

Schistosomiasis is the second-most prevalent tropical disease after malaria, affecting 200 million people worldwide, according to the National Institutes of Health. People are infected through contact with water contaminated with the parasite. The parasite burrows into human skin within
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Contact: Motomu Ibaraki
ibaraki.1@osu.edu
614-292-7528
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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