Space and Vibrio Sea Project

Satellite-based early warning systems to predict Vibrios-related disease in the Mediterranean area


In our global world, a disease outbreak in one country can spread internationally in a matter of hours or days. In controlling a disease outbreak, time is an essential parameter and speed of reaction is of particular importance. A rapid and coordinated response to health problems and threats is then critical and the setting up or implementation of already-running Early Warning Systems (EWS) is mandatory in the EC where products and people flow freely and controls at the borders have been abolished.

It has been demonstrated that the transmission of a number of communicable diseases, mainly vector-borne infections but also water- and air-borne diseases, is highly influenced by the environment and that global climate change and other important environmental changes are conditioning significantly infectious diseases transmissibility patterns.

A number of studies regarding the influence of climate changes on cholera outbreaks in the Bengala Gulf and the coast of Peru have highlighted the importance of the multidisciplinary approach in both the study of infectious diseases and the development of instruments useful in predicting the time and severity of epidemics. International studies on cholera and other diarrheal diseases shed some light on the seasonal influence of climate on waterborne diseases. Changing weather parameters have been associated with the contamination of coastal waters and shellfish-related diseases.

Vibrio spp., as well as the diseases they cause, are strongly associated with weather factors, particularly temperature, which dictate their seasonality and geographic distribution. A number of data shows a statistically significant association between concentrations of vibrios in estuaries and temperature and salinity, the latter being affected by rainfall and runoff. A high priority for future assessments of climate change and waterborne diseases is more studies of the basic relationships among temperature, sea-level rise, other climatic factors, and the ecology of disease agents. Recognizing signals from climate models and incorporating them into health measures can provide new opportunities for proactive, rather than reactive, approaches to public health.

A multidisciplinary approach that joins medicine with many other scientific and technological capabilities would have broad implications for the quality of daily life. In this context, satellite technologies would provide an important contribution with their double capability of performing continous environment monitoring and of both acquiring and transmitting data in real time and because of their exclusive characteristics such as large coverage allowing equal access, permanent use, large market size and their independency from extreme meteorological events leading to ground communication structures interrumption or misfunctioning.