St. George’s University recently participated in a groundbreaking feasibility study for an infectious disease surveillance system conducted with a team of researchers and scientists in Grenada. The objective of the study was to gather data to automate the collection of mosquitoes from the environment, and to better understand how diseases can be monitored through mosquitoes. Ideally, an automated system would be able to detect the movement of diseases through mosquitoes before outbreaks occur in the human population.
“We are excited to be part of this groundbreaking research in a continued effort to advance health and environmental development through the Schools of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine partnerships,” said Charles R. Modica, chancellor of St. George’s University.
St. George’s Department of Microbiology facilitated the study in collaboration with Microsoft, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the University of Pittsburgh. The collaboration stemmed from Microsoft’s “Project Premonition,” which uses a complex set of technologies including autonomous systems, next-generation gene sequencing and cloud computing in hopes of detecting emerging diseases before outbreaks happen. Mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases are of particular concern in the tropical regions of the world.
Microsoft chose the island of Grenada as an ideal location in the Caribbean for this study due to its mosquito populations, ecological diversity, existing research laboratories and highly skilled scientists at St. George’s University.
“Grenada is small but within the country there are many different ecosystems from beach to jungle to rainforest to urban environments,” said Dr. Ethan Jackson, researcher, Microsoft Research. This makes Grenada an ideal location for studying the feasibility of autonomous disease surveillance, especially when these system must robustly collect mosquitoes from many different habitats.
“The world now needs to have a focus on one health,” said Dr. Calum N.L. Macpherson, Director of Research, St. George’s University. “With all of our experts from St. George’s University School of Medicine, School of Veterinary Medicine, all in one location, coordinating international collaborative research of the highest caliber, studies in one health, tropical medicine, and emerging and re-emerging vector-borne diseases common in tropical climates and developing nations, is very feasible.”
The SGU project leader is Amy Baldwin, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and a former Research Specialist in molecular epidemiology at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.