Peru looks to space for Malaria cure

By September 25, 2017

The Peruvian government and NASA researchers are now using data from Earth-observing satellites, that track human and environmental events, to help prevent outbreaks of Malaria.

The Amazon basin serves as the perfect breeding ground for mosquitos and with Peru bordering the vicinity of this rainforest, the number of malaria cases in the country has continued to rise.

Peru has on average the second highest rate of malaria in South America, with 55,866 confirmed cases in 2015. With these statistics spiking, the Peruvian government is now reaching up into orbit to find a suitable solution to this pressing matter.

Combining weather satellites and a computer model called Land Data Assimilation System (LDAS), NASA scientists have been able to track and estimate rainfall levels, soil moisture, rising temperatures, and vegetation. All of which can be used to pinpoint where mosquito breeding sites will be, and therefore where a malaria outbreak could occur. The tracking system not only focuses on environmental factors but also fine-grained models of human behavior, such as logging, deforestation and mining activity.

This crucial information could essentially prevent a fatal outbreak of malaria at its earliest stages. Principle investigator at NASA, William Pan, informs that the system can identify a breakout 3 months in advance, with details as specific as the exact households it would affect. This, in turn, provides the Peruvian government time to take action, so they can hand out mosquito nets and sprays as well as anti-malarial treatment in the targeted area.

This is not the first time Peru has joined forces with organizations to mitigate malaria. Cayetano Heredia University (UPCH) has been working with Peru towards the elimination of Malaria, establishing new methods of investigation and setting long-term goals.

With teams tackling malaria both on the ground and off, Peru may be about to take a significant step towards controlling these deadly outbreaks.