Mosquitoes and malaria

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Every year, between 1 and 2 million people die from malaria. This deadly disease is spread from infected to healthy people by mosquitoes. When the insect bites someone, it transmits a parasite into their blood stream. Drugs are available, but these are often too expensive for many countries in Africa and elsewhere.

Although most deaths occur in poor countries, malaria was once common in Europe. Some scientists think global warming could allow malaria to reappear.

The problem is likely to get worse unless new ways can be found to fight the disease. Fortunately, space technology may offer a way to fight this mass killer.

The key is to develop early-warning systems for malaria. This can only be done by learning more about the conditions that occur at the time of a major outbreak.

With the help of data from satellites, scientists are beginning to obtain detailed maps of rainfall, temperature, surface water and plant cover. All of these factors influence the breeding cycle and the numbers of mosquitoes. For example, increased rainfall and temperature lead to upsurges in malaria cases as mosquito numbers increase. By learning where and when malaria usually begins, scientists will be able to predict future outbreaks.

Last modified 03 December 2004