Application of Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Technology to Study the Transmission of Leishmania chagasi in Teresina, Piauí, Brazil

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Project institution: Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts

Principal investigator: Dr. James Maguire1 Co-investigators: C.H. Costa2, D. Lamounier2, L. Beck3, B. Lobitz3, S. Dister3, B. Wood3

1 Harvard School of Public Health; currently with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA
2 Federal University of Piauí
3 CHAART, NASA Ames Research Center

The purpose of this pilot project is to define risk factors for transmission of visceral leishmaniasis (kala-azar) within the Brazilian city of Teresina by use of remote sensing and geographical information system technology, tools which have not been applied previously to the study of this disease. Current control programs directed against the sandfly vector and canine reservoir have failed to halt the epidemics of kala-azar that are sweeping through Teresina and other Brazilian cities at present. We hypothesize that environmental data obtained by remote sensing instruments at high altitudes can be used to identify areas of the city at risk for transmission and target control interventions in an effective manner.

Specifically, this project is designed to use remote sensing imagery to characterize the landscape elements associated with transmission of Leishmania chagasi and the presence of the sandfly vector and canine reservoir hosts. Satellite data will be integrated with demographic, ecological, and parasitological data collected on the ground to construct predictive models to discriminate areas at high and low risk for transmission. These models will be evaluated prospectively for their ability to detect foci of transmission, anticipate epidemics, and direct interventions for control. We expect the results of this pilot study will justify confinued use of remote sensing for purposes of surveillance and research on transmission of kala-azar throughout Brazil.

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For further information on this research, contact Louisa Beck.

Last updated: February 2002