Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Using cell phone data to curb the spread of malaria

Date:
October 11, 2012
Source:
Harvard School of Public Health
Summary:
New research that combines cell phone data from 15 million people in Kenya with detailed information on the regional incidence of malaria has revealed how human travel patterns contribute to the disease's spread.

New research that combines cell phone data from 15 million people in Kenya with detailed information on the regional incidence of malaria has revealed, on the largest scale so far, how human travel patterns contribute to the disease's spread. The findings from researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and seven other institutions indicate that malaria, in large part, emanates from Kenya's Lake Victoria region and spreads east, chiefly toward the capital, Nairobi.

Related Articles


The study appears in the October 12, 2012 issue of the journal Science.

"This is the first time that such a massive amount of cell phone data -- from millions of individuals over the course of a year -- has been used, together with detailed infectious disease data, to measure human mobility and understand how a disease is spreading," said senior author Caroline Buckee, HSPH assistant professor of epidemiology.

Malaria kills about 1 million people each year -- 90% are children under age 5 in sub-Saharan Africa -- and threatens over 3 billion globally.

To estimate malaria's potential spread, it's important to factor in not only information about the location of the mosquitoes that carry the malaria parasite, but also the behavior of the people who might be infected, said Buckee. Since many infected people have no symptoms, they can unintentionally carry the parasite during their travels and infect hundreds of others.

Between June 2008 and June 2009, the researchers mapped every call or text made by each of 14,816,521 Kenyan mobile phone subscribers to one of 11,920 cell towers located in 692 different settlements. Every time an individual left his or her primary settlement, the destination and duration of each journey was calculated. Then, using a 2009 malaria prevalence map provided by co-authors at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and the Malaria Atlas Project to estimate the disease's prevalence in each location being studied, they inferred each resident's probability of being infected and the daily probability that visitors to particular areas would become infected.

They found that a surprisingly large fraction of "imported" infections -- that is, infections that are carried by people moving from one place to another -- wind up in Nairobi, with infected residents returning there after journeys to spots such as Lake Victoria or the coast.

By using disease prevalence data, added Buckee, researchers can estimate the probability that each person is carrying malaria parasites and build a map of parasite movements between "source" areas (areas that mostly emit disease) and "sink" areas (areas that mostly receive disease).

This kind of research -- coupling "big data" from mobile phones with detailed malaria incidence information -- will be an important tool for understanding the spread of the disease, said Buckee. The information available from these new types of analyses holds promise for helping public health officials decide where and how to control imported cases of malaria. For instance, Buckee said, officials could send text message warnings to the phones of people traveling to high-risk areas, suggesting that they use a bednet.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Harvard School of Public Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. A. Wesolowski, N. Eagle, A. J. Tatem, D. L. Smith, A. M. Noor, R. W. Snow, C. O. Buckee. Quantifying the Impact of Human Mobility on Malaria. Science, 2012; 338 (6104): 267 DOI: 10.1126/science.1223467

Cite This Page:

Harvard School of Public Health. "Using cell phone data to curb the spread of malaria." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121011141433.htm>.
Harvard School of Public Health. (2012, October 11). Using cell phone data to curb the spread of malaria. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121011141433.htm
Harvard School of Public Health. "Using cell phone data to curb the spread of malaria." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121011141433.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) — The US FDA is announcing new calorie rules on Tuesday that will require everywhere from theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Daily Serving Of Yogurt Could Reduce Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes

Daily Serving Of Yogurt Could Reduce Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) — Need another reason to eat yogurt every day? Researchers now say it could reduce a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Madagascar Working to Contain Plague Outbreak

Madagascar Working to Contain Plague Outbreak

AFP (Nov. 24, 2014) — Madagascar said Monday it is trying to contain an outbreak of plague -- similar to the Black Death that swept Medieval Europe -- that has killed 40 people and is spreading to the capital Antananarivo. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) — A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins