A team of Chilean researchers is working on the development and "information vaccine"Designed to prevent the spread and spread of infectious diseases by providing reliable information in a timely and appropriate manner, inform project leaders.
The project is considering how information is spreading in society and suggests formulas for truth to spread optimally and to win rumors and false messages.
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Scientists hope to get effects comparable to conventional vaccines and may have particular efficacy in the fight against pandemic diseases.
The basis of this initiative, in which the Institute's interdisciplinary center, Milenio Neuroscience, works at the University of Valparaiso (CINV) and the Foundation for Science and Life (FCV), is a computing tool that enables the dissemination of information in society.
Using computer models that renew the latest Ebola outbreak in Africa (2014-2015), the team recently published an article proposing that an information vaccine could prevent the spread of the diseasewhose mortality varies between 25 and 90% of the infected population.
This has led researchers to questions such as: “What are the variables that make this disease so widely dispersed by mortality? Will it have to do with human physiology or biology? Or with an external variable? "
On this basis, they analyzed the possibility that by increasing the information that people have about the disease and its forms of infection it is possible to control its spread. This gave rise to the concept of "information vaccine."
To be successful, the information vaccine should cover the same scale as conventional vaccination, said Tomas Perez-Acle, PhD in Biotechnology and Project Director.
"If every infected person infects two others and so on, we realize that the number of infected people grows exponentially over time and fight the diseases that grow in this way is the first thing to find out how many people infect every infected person on average," he said. .
"We do this using mathematical and computational models, and once we find out the basic reproductive number of the disease, we can calculate how many people we have to vaccinate with the right information," he said.
In principle, the project was designed to work on some existing diseases in Chile, but the international scientific community, to which the publications that grant validity and viability to this type of initiative, do not show interest, and the team decided to cooperate with Ebola, which attracted the attention it demanded.
"It's a disease that dramatically alters the population's behavior because the symptoms of infection are very strong, the affected people have hemorrhagic symptoms, bleeding all membranes and mucous membranes, creating a generalized panic situation," said Tomas Perez.
This panic, he said, feeds on rumors and misinformations that create false news streams that feed the population.
In this context, they have determined that there is behavior in relation to Ebola that can be modified through information flows, such as those designed.
In Africa, deaths are kept in their homes, and families "not only watch them in the coffin but also touch, kiss, caress", which is also spreading in Latin America, according to Perez-Acle.
The intervention model points to these situations. "In the reports delivered to the population, we can say," Please, when your relatives die of this disease, bury them immediately, build your body, don't touch them, or we'll have a new source of contagion, "Perez said.
In his opinion, there is also a fundamental trust that people should have in the authority that sends the message.
"It's not just sending information, but making sure that the rate of news is high enough for people to take the proposed preventive measures," the researcher concluded.