The researchers found the technique accurately indicates fluctuations in population density -- and thus the risk of potential epidemics -- that can elude current methods of monitoring outbreaks.
To demonstrate their point, the team used night-time images of the three largest cities in the West African nation of Niger to correlate seasonal population growth with the onset of measles epidemics during the country's dry season, which lasts from September to May.
The images, taken between 2000 and 2004 by a US Department of Defense satellite used to obtain night-light data, were compared to records from Niger's Ministry of Health of measles cases from the same years.
The team found that measles cases were most prevalent when a city's lighted area was largest and brightest.
More information on the research, which was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, can be foundhere.
-- By Dave Wilson, Senior Editor,Vision Systems Design