Sriram Chellappan investigator for National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to identify disease-carrying mosquitoes with smartphone

September 24, 2020

Chellapan Research

CSE Professor and Director of Social Computing Research Lab Sriram Chellappan is an investigator on project titled “SCH: INT: Surveillance and Control of Mosquito-Borne Diseases through Automated Species Identification and Spatiotemporal Modeling.” Primary Investigator Ryan Carney at USF, Anne Bowser of the Wilson Center, and Russanne Low of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies and Chellappan will collaborate on the four-year project awarded for $900,000.

The research will focus on mosquitoes and the diseases they carry. The spread of mosquito-borne diseases poses an urgent threat to the Nation's and the world's health and welfare. Many of these diseases (West Nile disease, dengue fever, malaria, Zika) have become endemic, and outbreaks have been estimated to result annually in 2.7 million deaths worldwide. The state of Florida is a domestic epicenter for mosquito-borne diseases, with a devastating Zika outbreak in 2016 and locally transmitted cases of dengue fever in 2019 and 2020. The majority of known mosquito-borne diseases are transmitted by three common mosquito genera, namely Aedes, Anopheles, and Culex. Because there are no vaccines or cures available for many of these diseases, real-time surveillance is critical in deploying countermeasures, such as more targeted insecticide treatment and public information campaigns, to eliminate breeding habitats and mitigate disease outbreaks.

This award supports research to develop a platform for large-scale automated identification of mosquito genera and species via smartphone images and AI algorithms. The platform will enable citizens to upload smartphone images taken in nature to contribute to real-time data on mosquito populations worldwide, which will then be used for superior forecasting of risk prediction maps. Project outcomes are expected to be useful for the classification of other insect species and to further investigations in mosquito ecology and evolutionary biology with the goal of improving public health.