Model predicts malaria outbreaks

Norwegian and Ethiopian scientists recently developed a mathematical model to identify conditions that increase the likelihood of a malaria outbreak occurring up to two months ahead of time.

Open Malaria Warning, as the computer model is named, is capable of utilizing hydrological, meteorological, mosquito-breeding and land-use data to accurately determine both when and where an outbreak is likely to occur, according to

Torleif Markussen Lunde, a researcher at Norway's University of Bergen, said the model uses real-time information available in typical rural settings.

"The model also reproduces observed mosquito species composition in Africa. It is the first time this has been done with a biophysical model. We are now looking at which areas in Africa the model can be applied," Lunde said, reports.

Lunde said past attempts to predict malaria outbreaks often suffered from oversimplifications of real-time occurrences that could then lead to problematically high or low sensitivity to changes in the environment.

Bernt Lindtjørn, a professor of international health at the University of Bergen and a co-author of the research, said the model still needs to be tested during a significant malaria outbreak when its outputs can be compared with case studies and field observations.

"The development of a model that can predict malaria outbreaks will have a significant role in combating malaria," Daniel Argaw of the World Health Organization in Ethiopia said, reports.

Argaw added that no other models of note have been developed specifically for this purpose.