Weather patterns can be used to forecast rotavirus outbreaks

May 31, 2012

Monitoring weather factors like temperature, rain, and snowfall is one way to predict the timing and intensity of rotavirus, a disease that causes extreme diarrhea, dehydration and thousands of death annually, particularly among children.

In a paper published May 31 in the journal , a research team led by Elena Naumova, Ph.D., professor of civil and environmental engineering at Tufts School of Engineering, correlated temperature and precipitation with outbreaks in one of the hardest- hit regions of the world, South Asia.

In 2004, rotavirus resulted in 527,000 deaths worldwide in children younger than five years, the study noted. The majority of deaths are clustered in of developing countries in Africa and Asia. Being able to predict infection increases opportunities for health professionals to take effective such as vaccination that could substantially reduce deaths.

Naumova's research focuses on developing methodology for analysis of large databases to enhance . In this study the team examined seasonal differences in the environment by creating mathematical models based on factors such as temperature, humidity and precipitation in the region over 22 years.

"We found that rotavirus is sensitive to that are defined as a combined effect of temperature and precipitation," said Naumova, who is senior author of the study. This work builds on Naumova's previous research developing mathematical models to predict the timing, severity, and impact of diseases. "Our goal is to develop an integrated model which will allow monitoring the virus and also forecasting outbreaks."

Naumova and the research team analyzed monthly rates of rotavirus from 39 published epidemiological studies that were conducted on outbreaks between 1988 and 2010.

In this new model, the researchers considered meteorological characteristics based on data from the and the Global Historical Network to classify four geographic regions in South Asia—moist tropical climates; arid and semiarid; humid, mid-latitude areas, and cold temperature areas.

The incidence of rotavirus throughout Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka was higher during the coldest, driest months of the year—from December to March--the study indicated. Increases in temperature and precipitation in other parts of the year resulted in lower levels of the virus. Patterns were consistent across the geographical regions, though the fluctuations varied in intensity.

Additionally, the researchers found an association between rotavirus and vegetation density. Using remote sensing data derived from satellite images produced by moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS), a sensor on NASA's Terra satellite, the researchers were able to monitor and measure the amount of fresh vegetation across the region. A second source of remote sensing data was provided by the Global Inventory Monitoring and Mapping Studies (GIMMS).

The images were processed using mathematical techniques for turning satellite data into vegetation growth measurements. Researchers were able to measure changes in vegetation from 2000 to 2007. An analysis of data associated decreases of vegetation with an increase in the virus.

Explore further: Waging war against rotavirus

More information: dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0038168

Related Stories

Waging war against rotavirus

April 10, 2012
Canada should show leadership in supporting adoption of the rotavirus vaccination in developing countries, but it must also ensure that all Canadian infants are vaccinated against the virus, states an editorial in CMAJ (Canadian ...

Recommended for you

Google searches can be used to track dengue in underdeveloped countries

July 20, 2017
An analytical tool that combines Google search data with government-provided clinical data can quickly and accurately track dengue fever in less-developed countries, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

MRSA emerged years before methicillin was even discovered

July 19, 2017
Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) emerged long before the introduction of the antibiotic methicillin into clinical practice, according to a study published in the open access journal Genome Biology. It was ...

New test distinguishes Zika from similar viral infections

July 18, 2017
A new test is the best-to-date in differentiating Zika virus infections from infections caused by similar viruses. The antibody-based assay, developed by researchers at UC Berkeley and Humabs BioMed, a private biotechnology ...

'Superbugs' study reveals complex picture of E. coli bloodstream infections

July 18, 2017
The first large-scale genetic study of Escherichia coli (E. coli) cultured from patients with bloodstream infections in England showed that drug resistant 'superbugs' are not always out-competing other strains. Research by ...

Ebola virus can persist in monkeys that survived disease, even after symptoms disappear

July 17, 2017
Ebola virus infection can be detected in rhesus monkeys that survive the disease and no longer show symptoms, according to research published by Army scientists in today's online edition of the journal Nature Microbiology. ...

Mountain gorillas have herpes virus similar to that found in humans

July 13, 2017
Scientists from the University of California, Davis, have detected a herpes virus in wild mountain gorillas that is very similar to the Epstein-Barr virus in humans, according to a study published today in the journal Scientific ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.