Prioritizing infectious disease mapping

Published June 10, 2015, in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases (opens in a new window)


Increasing volumes of data and computational capacity afford unprecedented opportunities to scale up infectious disease (ID) mapping for public health uses. While a large number of IDs show global spatial variation, comprehensive knowledge of these geographic patterns is poor. Here we use an objective method to prioritize mapping efforts to begin to address the large deficit in global disease maps currently available.

Methodology/principal findings

Automation of ID mapping requires bespoke methodological adjustments tailored to the epidemiological characteristics of different types of diseases. Diseases were therefore grouped into 33 clusters based upon taxonomic divisions and shared epidemiological characteristics. Disability-adjusted life years, derived from the Global Burden of Disease 2013 study, were used as a globally consistent metric of disease burden. A review of global health stakeholders, existing literature, and national health priorities was undertaken to assess relative interest in the diseases. The clusters were ranked by combining both metrics, which identified 44 diseases of main concern within 15 principle clusters. While malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis were the highest priority due to their considerable burden, the high-priority clusters were dominated by neglected tropical diseases and vector-borne parasites.


A quantitative, easily-updated, and flexible framework for prioritizing diseases is presented here. The study identifies a possible future strategy for those diseases where significant knowledge gaps remain, as well as recognizing those where global mapping programs have already made significant progress. For many conditions, potential shared epidemiological information has yet to be exploited.

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Pigott DM, Howes RE, Wiebe A, Battle KE, Golding N, Gething PW, Dowell SF, Farag TH, Garcia AJ, Kimball AM, Krause LK, Smith CH, Brooker SJ, Kyu HH, Vos T, Murray CJL, Moyes CL, Hay SI. Prioritizing infectious disease mapping. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. 2015 Jun 10. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0003756.