Remote Sensing as a Landscape Epidemiologic Tool to Identify Villages at High Risk for Malaria Transmission

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  • Johnson Controls World Services, NASA Ames Research Center, Centro de Investigacion de Paludismo, Ministry of Health, Division of Environmental Studies and Department of Entomology, University of California, Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, Department of Biology, California State University, University of Texas Health Sciences Center, Moffett Field, California, Mexico

A landscape approach using remote sensing and geographic information system (GIS) technologies was developed to discriminate between villages at high and low risk for malaria transmission, as defined by adult Anopheles albimanus abundance. Satellite data for an area in southern Chiapas, Mexico were digitally processed to generate a map of landscape elements. The GIS processes were used to determine the proportion of mapped landscape elements surrounding 40 villages where An. albimanus abundance data had been collected. The relationships between vector abundance and landscape element proportions were investigated using stepwise discriminant analysis and stepwise linear regression. Both analyses indicated that the most important landscape elements in terms of explaining vector abundance were transitional swamp and unmanaged pasture. Discriminant functions generated for these two elements were able to correctly distinguish between villages with high and low vector abundance, with an overall accuracy of 90%. Regression results found both transitional swamp and unmanaged pasture proportions to be predictive of vector abundance during the mid-to-late wet season. This approach, which integrates remotely sensed data and GIS capabilities to identify villages with high vector-human contact risk, provides a promising tool for malaria surveillance programs that depend on labor-intensive field techniques. This is particularly relevant in areas where the lack of accurate surveillance capabilities may result in no malaria control action when, in fact, directed action is necessary. In general, this landscape approach could be applied to other vector-borne diseases in areas where 1) the landscape elements critical to vector survival are known and 2) these elements can be detected at remote sensing scales.