A Malaria Outbreak Predictor? This Time It’s for Real

Malaria outbreaks are incredibly dangerous, hard to control, and are the cause of 1 million deaths per year and 250 million cases every year, but a breakthrough computer model out of Kenya may change all that. Using environmental variables such as mating mechanisms of mosquitoes and weather predictions, scientists at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), the Kenya Meteorological Department, and the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi can now predict malaria outbreaks within 90 days.

The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was an early funder of research on the model, which began in 2000. The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development later came on board, as did Canada’s International Development Research Institute. Local staff in Kenya and around East Africa were trained in how to use the model and now local meteorological offices also have access to the model.

Accuracy is 75%, a rate that still needs improvement, but the model is promising. Resources such as insecticide-treated bed nets can be quickly deployed to save hundreds of thousands of people, rather than wait until it’s too late and resources are drained trying to treat cases in hospitals and prevent massive deaths.

[Image via Centers for Disease Control]JN