HR Wallingford is expanding its space-based early warning system for dengue fever from Vietnam to six other countries following an extension to its grant by the UK Space Agency. Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, The Philippines and Sri Lanka will now benefit from the work to improve predictions of this debilitating disease in these emerging economies.

The ground-breaking software, Dengue forecasting Model Satellite-based System, or D-MOSS for short, combines satellite data with weather forecasts and a hydrological model to predict dengue epidemics up to six months in advance.

HR Wallingford’s new software helps target the costly spraying used to control dengue
Image/HR Wallingford

Key to controlling dengue is costly surveillance and control of the mosquitos that spread the disease, so better prediction helps hugely with the distribution of scarce resources. Forecasting also allows more targeted support to help local communities reduce their mosquitos through a range of simple measures such as improving water storage and waste management, as well as personal protection such as mosquito coils.

Over the next two years, D-MOSS will be expanded to cover the six new countries using publicly available data. Predictions will also be made at a local level where enough information from partners is obtainable. To this end, HR Wallingford has teamed up with the International Medical University and the Ministry of Health in Malaysia as well as looking to forge links with similar organisations in the other five countries.

The prevalence of dengue fever poses a global health issue, with half the world’s population now estimated to be at risk from this mosquito-borne viral infection (WHO Dengue Factsheet, April 2017). Found in tropical and sub-tropical climates worldwide, mostly in urban and semi-urban areas, the infection causes a flu-like illness which can develop into a potentially lethal complication known as severe dengue.

Dr Gina Tsarouchi, D-MOSS project manager, said “We hope that increasing the reach of our D-MOSS system to predict outbreaks of dengue will save help lives in the six new countries. It has just gone live in Vietnam and the first forecasts have been produced, so we are excited to see this translate into disease prevention on the ground. The tool could be used worldwide for predicting outbreaks of dengue, as well as for Zika, which is transmitted by the same type of mosquito.”

In other developments, the work will also show how climate change may affect dengue outbreaks in the future as well as provides water availability information that can be used for general water management.

HR Wallingford leads the research consortium alongside international partners. The group is sponsored by the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme (IPP), a five-year, £152 million programme designed to partner UK space expertise with overseas governments and organizations to deliver sustainable, economic or societal benefits