Mapping of exposed water tanks and swimming pools based on aerial images can help control dengue

Press Release by Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo: “Brazilian researchers have developed a computer program that locates swimming pools and rooftop water tanks in aerial photographs with the aid of artificial intelligence to help identify areas vulnerable to infestation by Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that transmits dengue, zika, chikungunya and yellow fever. 

The innovation, which can also be used as a public policy tool for dynamic socio-economic mapping of urban areas, resulted from research and development work by professionals at the University of São Paulo (USP), the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) and the São Paulo State Department of Health’s Endemic Control Superintendence (SUCEN), as part of a project supported by FAPESP. An article about it is published in the journal PLOS ONE

“Our work initially consisted of creating a model based on aerial images and computer science to detect water tanks and pools, and to use them as a socio-economic indicator,” said Francisco Chiaravalloti Neto, last author of the article. He is a professor in the Epidemiology Department at USP’s School of Public Health (FSP), with a first degree in engineering. 

As the article notes, previous research had already shown that dengue tends to be most prevalent in deprived urban areas, so that prevention of dengue, zika and other diseases transmitted by the mosquito can be made considerably more effective by use of a relatively dynamic socio-economic mapping model, especially given the long interval between population censuses in Brazil (ten years or more). 

“This is one of the first steps in a broader project,” Chiaravalloti Neto said. Among other aims, he and his team plan to detect other elements of the images and quantify real infestation rates in specific areas so as to be able to refine and validate the model. 

“We want to create a flow chart that can be used in different cities to pinpoint at-risk areas without the need for inspectors to call on houses, buildings and other breeding sites, as this is time-consuming and a waste of the taxpayer’s money,” he added…(More)”.