Geographic profiling could be used to combat infectious diseases

Geographic profiling, a technique used to hunt serial killers, can also be used to combat infectious diseases such as malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis.

A recent study conducted by Steven Le Comber from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at Queen Mary - University of London, has proven that scientists can use the location of disease cases to zero in on an outbreak’s source, according to

Geographic profiling is a statistical method generally used by law enforcement agencies to identify where a killer is most likely to live and work. Kim Rossmo, a former detective turned professor of criminal justice at Texas State University, developed the system and collaborated with Le Comber on the new study.

Along with researchers from the University of Miami and Ain Shams University in Cairo, Le Comber analyzed the major London cholera outbreak in 1854, a classic study, and a more recent outbreak of malaria in Cairo.

In both instances the scientists discovered the source of the outbreaks – the Broad Street pump in the London case - and the geographic location of breeding among Anopheles sergentii mosquitoes in the Cairo case.

“Correctly applied, geographic profiling shows great promise as a useful component of policy relating to the control of a wide variety of infectious diseases,” Le Comber said, according to "Evidence-based targeting of interventions like this is more efficient, environmentally friendly and cost effective than untargeted intervention.”

BioMed Central’s open access journal, the International Journal of Health Geographics, published the study.