IBM has joined forces with Brazilian researchers to better monitor the spread of Zika virus

IBM's machines to fight against Zika virus

IBM has provided its technology and expertise to help better monitor spread of the Zika virus disease in South America.

The technology firm has partnered with Brazil’s Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), a research institution affiliated with the Brazilian Ministry of Health, which will use IBM’s technology to analyse clues such as mentions on social media and official data about human travel patterns.

The researchers will use IBM’s software STEM (Spatiotemporal Epidemiological Modeller), which models and visualises the spread of infectious diseases. The system can take into account factors such as geography, weather, time, roadways and airports to gain a better understanding of the spread of the disease. The technology was previously used to predict the spread of Ebola, malaria and dengue fever.

The project is supported through the IBM Impact Grant and also involves technology analysing citizen’s concerns from posts and discussions on Twitter. The system monitors in near real-time mentions of Zika incidences, as well as references to the occurrences of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads the disease.

Brazilian healthcare authorities will be able to use the anonymised data to make recommendations to public health officers. Similar technology was previously used in 2014 during the World Cup in Brazil.

Previously, IBM launched a project called OpenZika, which harnesses the computing power of IBM’s World Community Grid – a virtual crowdsourced supercomputer – to screen millions of chemical compounds for their potential ability to fight Zika. Researchers can access the computing power, hosted on computers of Android devices of volunteers, through a downloadable app.

IBM also plans a project that will make it possible to predict the proliferation of the Aedes aegypti larvae in relation to temperature, rainfall and humidity. The project, to be overseen by the US Fund for UNICEF, will collect information from more than 20,000 weather-related data points in Brazil.

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