Mobile phones and malaria: modeling human and parasite travel

Travel Med Infect Dis. 2013 Jan-Feb;11(1):15-22. doi: 10.1016/j.tmaid.2012.12.003. Epub 2013 Mar 9.


Human mobility plays an important role in the dissemination of malaria parasites between regions of variable transmission intensity. Asymptomatic individuals can unknowingly carry parasites to regions where mosquito vectors are available, for example, undermining control programs and contributing to transmission when they travel. Understanding how parasites are imported between regions in this way is therefore an important goal for elimination planning and the control of transmission, and would enable control programs to target the principal sources of malaria. Measuring human mobility has traditionally been difficult to do on a population scale, but the widespread adoption of mobile phones in low-income settings presents a unique opportunity to directly measure human movements that are relevant to the spread of malaria. Here, we discuss the opportunities for measuring human mobility using data from mobile phones, as well as some of the issues associated with combining mobility estimates with malaria infection risk maps to meaningfully estimate routes of parasite importation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Phone / statistics & numerical data*
  • Communicable Disease Control / methods
  • Culicidae
  • Humans
  • Insect Vectors
  • Malaria, Falciparum / prevention & control
  • Malaria, Falciparum / transmission*
  • Mosquito Control / methods*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / isolation & purification*
  • Travel*