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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2023
  2. In recent decades, computer vision has proven remarkably effective in addressing diverse issues in public health, from determining the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of diseases in humans to predicting infectious disease outbreaks. Here, we investigate whether convolutional neural networks (CNNs) can also demonstrate effectiveness in classifying the environmental stages of parasites of public health importance and their invertebrate hosts. We used schistosomiasis as a reference model. Schistosomiasis is a debilitating parasitic disease transmitted to humans via snail intermediate hosts. The parasite affects more than 200 million people in tropical and subtropical regions. We trained our CNN, a feed-forward neural network,more »on a limited dataset of 5,500 images of snails and 5,100 images of cercariae obtained from schistosomiasis transmission sites in the Senegal River Basin, a region in western Africa that is hyper-endemic for the disease. The image set included both images of two snail genera that are relevant to schistosomiasis transmission – that is, Bulinus spp. and Biomphalaria pfeifferi – as well as snail images that are non-component hosts for human schistosomiasis. Cercariae shed from Bi. pfeifferi and Bulinus spp. snails were classified into 11 categories, of which only two, S. haematobium and S. mansoni , are major etiological agents of human schistosomiasis. The algorithms, trained on 80% of the snail and parasite dataset, achieved 99% and 91% accuracy for snail and parasite classification, respectively, when used on the hold-out validation dataset – a performance comparable to that of experienced parasitologists. The promising results of this proof-of-concept study suggests that this CNN model, and potentially similar replicable models, have the potential to support the classification of snails and parasite of medical importance. In remote field settings where machine learning algorithms can be deployed on cost-effective and widely used mobile devices, such as smartphones, these models can be a valuable complement to laboratory identification by trained technicians. Future efforts must be dedicated to increasing dataset sizes for model training and validation, as well as testing these algorithms in diverse transmission settings and geographies.« less
  3. null (Ed.)
    Dams enable the production of food and renewable energy, making them a crucial tool for both economic development and climate change adaptation in low- and middle-income countries. However, dams may also disrupt traditional livelihood systems and increase the transmission of vector- and water-borne pathogens. These livelihood and health impacts diminish the benefits of dams to rural populations dependent on rivers, as hydrological and ecological alterations change flood regimes, reduce nutrient transport and lead to the loss of biodiversity. We propose four agricultural innovations for promoting equity, health, sustainable development, and climate resilience in dammed watersheds: (1) restoring migratory aquatic species,more »(2) removing submerged vegetation and transforming it into an agricultural resource, (3) restoring environmental flows and (4) integrating agriculture and aquaculture. As investment in dams accelerates in low- and middle-income countries, appropriately addressing their livelihood and health impacts can improve the sustainability of modern agriculture and economic development in a changing climate.« less