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Studying climate change and air pollution may help predict TB outbreaks

June 5 2019: On World Environment Day, Dr. Nupur Giri, Professor and Head of Department of Computer Engineering at Vivekanand Education Society’s Institute of Technology (VESIT), who is part of a team that has received Microsoft’s AI for Earth grant, discusses how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help predict how air borne diseases can propagate based on climate conditions, air quality, and population density in an area.
This is an important area of work considering air pollution causes nearly 4.2 million deaths every year (according to World Health Organization estimates). High concentration of respirable and fine suspended particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) not only impacts the cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and respiratory systems, but also increases the spread of airborne diseases.
Dr. Giri and her team started the project in 2018 to find the correlation between these seemingly disparate factors to be able to predict the propagation of infectious diseases such as Tuberculosis (TB) in India. To study the impact of environmental conditions, such as climatic factors and pollution, on the epidemiology of TB the team collated data from 725 districts over a 17-year time frame from various sources. This data is being used to create a AI-based model which can help predict areas of spread of TB and help agencies tackling the disease focus their efforts in those areas. Once successfully done, this model could also be employed for other diseases.
Read about the project here