My friend Oleg prompted me to read this article about analysis of mobile phone data and its implication in treatment of malaria. Nathan Eagle has been using (anonymous) mobile phone user data in developing countries to attempt to identify disease outbreaks through monitoring of the movement of people. The study was reportedly used to try to identify if it was viable to attempt to control malaria by localised elimination of the parasite. The conclusion was that elimination of the parasite would not be effective because the high mobility of people rendered it ineffective.
I wonder how useful this data would be in the prediction of where drug resistance is likely to appear next? If the data can be correlated with known areas of resistance and mass movement of people are observed to new areas, could this information be used to inform drug regimes for treatment of disease? For example switching to alternative medication regimes when resistance is suspected.
Artemisin resistant malaria is scary (one of the reasons that we’re working on things to help combat this) and on its way. It would be great to track the data of people movement from areas such as the Thai/Burma border but I doubt their respective govs will be happy to share the movement of their border populations and crucially of troops operating in the jungle.