VecNet was designed to support modeling and data sharing about all vector-borne deseases, starting first with malaria. Although malaria remains both treatable and preventable, the number of infected cases is estimated at 350-500 million people worldwide each year with an estimated 650,000 deaths, most of which occur in children under five years old. Recent global efforts have contributed to declines in malaria-related sickness and death. However, the combined effort of these strategies is still insufficient to eliminate the disease - there is a need for new approaches to eradicate malaria.
VecNet was founded in 2011 as a consortium of institutions assembled to address the concerns and recommendations of the Malaria Eradication Research Agenda (malERA) initiative. The initiative, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, produced a collection of 12 reviews after consultations with more than 250 experts on malaria from 36 countries. The malERA initiative concluded that the first step in malaria elimination required assembling and making accessible all relevant data on malaria as a means to analyze the data in order to both preserve the effectiveness of our present malaria control intervention and the means to design new strategies.
To address those needs, the Vector-Borne Disease Network (VecNet) was formed and presently consists of James Cook University, the University of Notre Dame, Oxford University, the Institute of Disease Modeling, the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute and Robert Farlow Consulting LLC.
VecNet has created a web portal with fully searchable digital library and data warehouse to allow users to access malaria information and data. The VecNet portal hosts two mathematical models, the Epidemiological Model of Disease (developed by the Institute for Disease Modelling at Intellectual Ventures) and the OpenMalaria model, (developed by the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute).
VecNet has created user-friendly software with access to experts to
(1) assist individuals and groups who would normally not use models to explore combinations of vector and drug based interventions to determine the optimal mix for use is specific geographic areas
(2) to allow new product developers to refine target product profiles and
(3) to assist policy makers and funders to make decisions on investments.
VecNet Strategies To Fight Vector-Borne Diseases
Simulation models use existing data to predict intervention outcomes. Their use within a project can reduce costs and save time by demonstrating the likely impacts of interventions before resources are committed. Simulations modelling can identify which combinations of interventions are likely to achieve desired results, saving funds.
However, historically their use has been restricted by their availability: by the requirement of advanced mathematical modelling knowledge and expensive modelling software. To address this gap and improve access to simulation modelling programs, VecNet is developing simplified user interfaces for existing simulation programs. These interfaces are available freely to VecNet users to improve malaria eradication strategies. VecNet also provides user-friendly interfaces to data and information storage, and these can be linked to the simulation modeling interfaces.
The VecNet tools offer accessible, transparent and comprehensible information and simulation modelling programs, to allow users to ask "what-if" questions to create intervention simulations that will inform local vertor-borne desease eradication strategies.