My favourite paper of the week is… “The global distribution and burden of dengue”

Samir Bhatt, Peter W. Gething, Oliver J. Brady, Jane P. Messina, Andrew W. Farlow, Catherine L. Moyes, John M. Drake, John S. Brownstein, Anne G. Hoen, Osman Sankoh, Monica F. Myers, Dylan B. George, Thomas Jaenisch, G. R. William Wint, Cameron P. Simmons, Thomas W. Scott, Jeremy J. Farrar & Simon I. Hay (2013) The global distribution and burden of dengue. Nature 496: 504-507. article.

I chose this paper mainly for two reasons: (1) having global maps of dengue incidence represents a tremendous help for all those working on dengue research and policy makers, it also helps to open our eyes to how serious the problem is (~3 times more infections than those estimated by WHO!); (2) the beauty of the methods that are required to produce global estimates of such an elusive disease when it comes to reporting.

I enjoyed the integration of dengue reporting in the boosted regression tree with spatial covariates like vegetation, urban areas and accessibility. But the most interesting bit is how the spatial distribution is combined with multiple cohort datasets to, using MCMC, create a global map of dengue burden.

This is a great advancement for dengue disease burden estimation that paves the way for an update of economic burden of dengue worldwide. This may suppose the definite push for new technologies for dengue control (e.g. RIDL, Wolbachia) which are waiting for the last policy nod.

As a negative note, if any, is that I could not find the estimated global maps available as shapefiles or raster files in the supplementary information of the publication. I hope these are made available upon request to the authors? Having the files available in the Nature website would be a great help to many of us, I really hope journals implement a stronger policy for straight data sharing.

Anyway, this is a terrific paper and my favourite one for the week. I highly recommend reading it (even the supplementary information!).


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