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Netting malaria

Anyone going on holiday to a malaria-affected country will often head to their doctor for a course of malaria tablets. But for those who live in countries at risk, taking preventative medicines is impractical.

So what do citizens of these areas do? They use mosquito nets or insect repellent, treat their houses with insecticide, or get rapid treatment in the event of becoming ill.

While none of these methods are perfect, each can make a big impact given the widespread nature of the disease. Malaria is preventable and treatable but three quarters of a million people die from it every year, putting healthcare services in affected countries under enormous strain.

Healthcare providers and governments need to find ways to determine the most effective combination of treatments for their area. They can use mathematical models to simulate the effectiveness of different combinations of malaria control, and work out what the best solution is for a given situation.

In 2003 researchers at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute started running malaria models to answer these questions. Starting with just 50 of their own PCs, they soon opened up the project via BOINC and malariacontrol.net was born. Today 50,000 people contribute computing time to the project, through over 70,000 PCs. In total, malariacontrol.net and its volunteers have notched up over 10,000 CPU years helping healthcare professionals fight malaria.


Want to read more about the success stories powered by volunteer computing? Take a look at International Science Grid This Week, a weekly online publication that covers distributed computing and the research it enables.


Read another related story in iSGTW, Malaria vaccination plans helped along by volunteers.