Mr. Gabriel Carrasco-Escobar, a first-year joint-doctoral student with San Diego State University and the University of California San Diego on the Global Health track in Public Health, recently published his research titled, “High-accuracy detection of malaria vector larval habitats using drone-based multispectral imagery”. Dr. Carrasco-Escobar’s overall research focus is on the epidemiology of tropical diseases and how that intersects with environmental determinants in resource-limited settings. “I’m particularly interested in epidemiological, spatial and remote sensing methods to understand the distribution, risk factors and determinants of tropical diseases and the impact of control interventions. In the last years, my work was centered on the role of human population mobility and micro-geographic landscape composition as regulators for Malaria dynamics in the Amazon region”, he states.
Due to the fact that long-lasting insecticidal nets and indoor residual sprays are proven to be ineffective against exophagic and exophilic mosquitoes, it is necessary to find new ways to target and control mosquito populations. When asked what drove him to this area of research, Dr. Carrasco-Escobar states, “the malaria vectors in the Amazon are extremely plastic. This characteristic jeopardizes the control efforts from the Ministry of Health in Peru. Our intention is to develop new methods that can be adapted to effectively allocate resources in these settings”. The new methods developed in this research funded by the World Health Organization (WHO)-TDR program to Dr. Dionicia Gamboa (UPCH, Peru) and Dr. Marta Moreno (LSTMH, UK), included utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) to identify mosquito breeding sites among bodies of water in Peru. They found that this method identifies these breeding sites with an overall accuracy of 86.73 percent to 96.98percent, allowing for proper targeting and effective resource utilization for control of these vectors. “This proof-of-concept study has shown the viability to collect high-resolution images using drones in the Amazon region to characterize malaria vector habitat. This could not be possible with currently available satellite images due to coarse spatial or temporal resolution”, states Dr. Carrasco-Escobar.
Dr. Carrasco-Escobar describes that, “through the control of the aquatic stages of vector mosquitoes, larval source management (LSM) targets the most productive breeding sites nearest to human habitation. This research presents key initial steps to identify those breeding sites and expanding the toolbox to eliminate malaria in this Region.”