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Preventing mosquito-borne disease

MIT-Brazil Program interns collaborate on platform that optimizes mosquito control in Brazil.
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Gustavo Mamão, CEO of Ecovec and a Brazilian MIT Sloan Fellows alum
Gustavo Mamão, CEO of Ecovec and a Brazilian MIT Sloan Fellows alum

Dengue fever and chikunguyna were once unheard of in North America. However, with the introduction of the mosquito vector Aedes sp. in the United States, Florida is now at high risk for disease transmission. Some mosquito control districts in Florida are now actively searching for mosquito control solutions that have been successfully used in dengue endemic countries. One such solution is MI-Dengue, a vector surveillance system used to optimize mosquito control actions in Brazil. The technology was developed at a Brazilian university and is now administered by the company, Ecovec.

Gustavo Mamão, CEO of Ecovec and a MIT Sloan Fellows alumnus from Brazil, works to apply the MI-Dengue platform outside of the country. “We want to share our 10 years of experience in dengue prevention in order to help global public health authorities prevent vector borne disease outbreaks,” he says.

Providing timely information is crucial in controlling disease. Thanks to MI-Dengue, Ecovec estimates that it can predict outbreaks four to eight weeks in advance. The MI-Dengue system uses a dense network of mosquito traps to collect extensive data, while MIT biological engineering alumna Tina Stutzman '12 manages the system used to analyze and present the data to health officials. “The web interface is based on maps that show the geographic distribution of dengue risk,” she explains, “and charts that show the progression of dengue risk over time and by neighborhood.”

Stutzman first joined the team as an MIT-Brazil Program intern and has worked with Ecovec for the past two years to increase the usability and adaptability of the MI-Dengue system. “Now that dengue is becoming an international threat, we must look for examples of interventions that work,” she says. “I am excited to work with MI-Dengue and help adapt the Brazilian technology to fight vector transmitted diseases currently threatening the U.S.”

Partnerships between Ecovec and U.S. research institutions has allowed for the continuous improvement and internationalization of the MI-Dengue system. As an intern, Stutzman connected with researchers; performed interactive client studies to better understand user experience and identify needs of the municipal vector control departments; and helped develop the technology roadmap for future research and development projects. This summer Stutzman is supervising two current MIT-Brazil Program interns. Their work will help optimize the system for international use as the risk of dengue and chikungunya increases internationally.

The MIT-Brazil Program is part of MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI), MIT’s flagship international education program. Each year, MISTI places more than 680 MIT students in professional internships and research positions in 19 countries around the world. MIT-Brazil was founded in 2009.

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