Global health organizations are searching for the key to put global infectious diseases in check. In the age of big data, computer models could reveal the answer.

Technology-Powered Disease Eradication
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Technology-Powered Disease Eradication

Infectious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis (TB), polio, or HIV affect communities differently across the globe. In some countries the disease may be nearly eradicated. In others it may be an epidemic that is threatening lives, burdening families, and damaging economies. 

TB is second only to HIV/AIDS as the greatest killer worldwide due to a single infectious agent. Malaria kills a child every 60 seconds, yet the disease is 100% preventable and treatable. And although only three countries remain polio-endemic, polio is still affecting young children and, in some cases, causing irreversible paralysis.*

Global organizations—from UNICEF to the World Health Organization (WHO) to PATH—are driving a variety of efforts to eradicate disease. Although world-class organizations are at the helm, relieving the burden of infectious disease still remains a daunting task.

Despite decades of effort, unexpected complex variables including climate, geography, and social behavior have thwarted eradication campaigns in many parts of the world. Researchers are realizing they need to better understand the relationship between those complex variables and disease. Thanks to the power of modern computing, they can.

The Institute for Disease Modeling (IDM) is using innovative software modeling to develop detailed, geographically-specific, and mechanistic models of disease transmission simulations.


Photo: Modeling the spread of malaria in Madagascar

These data-driven computer models are used to discover the best ways to eradicate malaria, TB, polio, and HIV. The models consider everything from weather patterns and people’s social habits to the characteristics of the diseases themselves and the ways they spread. IDM’s models calculate how diseases may spread in particular areas and analyze the effects of current and future health policies and intervention strategies. The models support infectious disease campaign planning, data gathering, new product development, and policy decisions.

Armed with the information derived from IDM’s simulations, those organizations that are on the frontlines of eradication efforts are making better predictions about health policies and intervention strategies. And they’re better positioned to finally put infectious agents in check.

Big data and supercomputing are powerful tools to have on the frontlines of disease eradication efforts. By leveraging the data gathered through computer simulations, it’s possible that the world’s most devastating infectious diseases will be eradicated within our lifetime.

For More Information on IDM and its work, visit:

*Sources: the World Health Organization and UNICEF

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