Schistosomiasis is a devastating disease affecting 250 million people, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa, that is caused by a parasite that lives in snails. Increasing risk of acquiring schistosomiasis has been clearly associated with the construction of dams and water management infrastructure in tropical and subtropical areas.
Changes in hydrology and salinity associated with water infrastructure create conditions favorable to the aquatic vegetation habitat for the snails that carry the Schistosoma parasites. With thousands of water reservoirs and irrigation canals in Africa, it is critical to know where the snails are to control schistosomiasis long-term. Traditional techniques for monitoring snails are costly and labor intensive. Stanford researchers propose a novel approach to assess schistosomiasis risk across large spatial scales, integrating field data on vegetation and snail distribution with high-definition satellite and drone imagery, artificial intelligence, and disease dynamics modeling, to provide a rapid, and cost-effective assessment of transmission hotspots. This technology will assist decision-makers on how to improve strategies to fight schistosomiasis by complementing human chemotherapy with effective environmental control of snails.
Giulio De Leo, Professor of Biology
Eric Lambin, Professor of Earth System Science