There has been talking about using social media for epidemiological purposes. For example, in areas where there is an increase of key-words such as “malaria” in social media, an increase in malaria prevalence is to be expected. I don’t think social media can be applied for epidemiological purposes. There are to many biases. Still, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t any nice scientific applications using social media as tool.
To start from the beginning, how do you extract keywords from social media? For example, what are the latest associated words around the subject #plasmodium? Here I will be using an R- Application Programming Interface (API) to search through the Twitter data.
Setting up connection with twitteR can sometimes be a pain. When you use R-Studio, you need to type-over the web address containing the long token key. After you shook hands with Twitter, search through their database for a subject and convert the data to a dataframe:
## Plasmodium twitter cloud
a <- searchTwitter("#plasmodium", n=1000)
tweets_df = twListToDF(a) #Convert to Dataframe
Next, clean up the dataframe.
b=Corpus(VectorSource(tweets_df$text), readerControl = list(language = "eng"))
b <- tm_map(b, tolower) #Changes case to lower case
b <- tm_map(b, stripWhitespace) #Strips White Space
b <- tm_map(b, removePunctuation) #Removes Punctuation
b <- tm_map(b, removeWords, stopwords("english")) #Removes English stopwords like 'the'
b <- tm_map(b, removeNumbers) #Removes numbers
tdm <- TermDocumentMatrix(b)
m1 <- as.matrix(tdm)
v1 <- sort(rowSums(m1),decreasing=TRUE)
d4 <- data.frame(word = names(v1),freq=v1)
This is just one example. Data can be presented the way you like. On the website ‘mining in Twitter with R‘, you can find some more nice examples.
This twitter data mining tool is a goldmine for marketing. How to use it for more scientific purposes? Well, for example, you can search for the associative words or subjects between ‘#malaria’ and ‘@billgatesfoundation’. What are the trends? Maybe useful when you are writing a grand-proposal!
On the website of Malariadiagnostiek you can watch animations about malaria diagnostics. The animations are informative and funny. So far, the site is in Dutch language. Presumably an English version will follow.
Two Different Point-of-Care Test Devices for Malaria Show Why Emerging Technologies Can Be Disruptive to Clinical Pathology Laboratories
wo new handheld, point-of-care test (POC) devices for malaria could save millions of lives in third-world countries. At the same time, these POC devices may lead to inexpensive alternatives for diagnosing common diseases in developed nations as well.
Clinical laboratory test developers see a big opportunity in developing assays to detect Malaria. That is because an estimated 200 million cases of malaria are diagnosed annually, resulting in the death of about 100 million people each year.
Recently, two organizations released news about the specific testing devices they have developed to detect malaria. One group is at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. The other group is NanoMal, a biotechnology company located in the United Kingdom.
The World Malaria Report 2012 summarizes information received from 104 malaria-endemic countries and other sources, and updates the analyses presented in the 2011 report. It highlights the progress made towards the global malaria targets set for 2015 and describes current challenges for global malaria control and elimination.
Studies of experimental malaria interventions have long relied on a tried-and-true method of causing malaria infections in healthy volunteers by subjecting them to bites from mosquitos infected with Plasmodium falciparum parasites. But results from a preliminary study presented at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in November suggest that injections of purified cryopreserved P. falciparum sporozoites may also do the trick. Added by Robert ten Hove:
The P. falciparum lifecycle continues when sporozoites enter the bloodstream and infect livercells. Obtaining these sporozoites, Anopheles mosquitos need to be grown in a strictly controlled cultivation chamber. The mosquitoes are exposed to infected blood, before they are fed on the study-participants. Using cryopreserved sporozoites, these cultivation procedures are something of the past. Whats more, study-participants can be exposed to well defined number of sporozoites.
A patient with falciparum malaria locally acquired in the south of France
From: J.E. Arends & J.J. Oosterheert. Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Medische Microbiologie. December 2012, nr. 4.
Malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum is not endemic in Europe. Reported cases are almost exclusively from imported cases from travelers to endemic areas. Here we describe one patient who had not been in malaria epidemic areas for years, but acquired falciparum malaria locally in the south of France.
A 34-year old woman originating from Sierra Leone was recently seen at the out patients department complaining of periodic spiking fever lasting pain in her abdomen and athralgia for 2 weeks. Her last visit to malaria-endemic country (Sierra Leone) was in 2003. Before presentation she stayed in France (Bourgogne area) with her family in an apartment. Several people recently returning from Africa to the apartment block, came down with malaria. On physical examination, small wounds of insect bites were seen around the ankles. In her blood results the most striking was the anemia with a haemoglobin of 7.1 mmol/L, a thrombosytopenia of 80x10E9/L and a leukocytopenia of 3.7x10E9/L with a normal differentiation. Further investigation with microscopy of a thick smear and malaria antigen test (Binax Now) were postive for Plasmodium falciparum with a parasitaemia of 0.18%. She was started on a 3-day course of Malarone (atovaquon/proguanil) 4 times daily and returned home. She fully recovered and at follow-up visits in the out patients department no malaria parasites were seen on thick smear. Vectors for Plasmodium falciparum are observed throughout Europe. Together with more immigration, local transmission of malaria could become a problem in Europe in the future.
Note from Robert ten Hove
Another possible source of infection of malaria that has been proposed in literature are Anopheles mosquitoes infected with Plasmodium spp transported by airplanes from endemic area.
Second, the authors’ prospect of P. falciparum becoming an increasing problem in Europe due to local vectors, immigration and local transmission is something very unlikely. Life cycle of P. falciparum are very much depended on higher temperature throughout the year. Also, in order for the transmission cycle to be closed, a large group of malaria patients is necessary from which the vector can pick up the parasite.
However, if there is one thing that parasites have tough us, adaptability is their key to survival.