Geographic profiling, a technique used in the hunt for serial killers, can also help combat infectious diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, says a new study.
Geographic profiling is a statistical technique, which uses the locations of crimes to identify areas in which the serial criminal is most likely to live and work.
The technique was originally developed to help police prioritize suspects and has been successfully used by law enforcement agencies around the world.
It was invented by Kim Rossmo, a former detective turned Professor of Criminal Justice, from Texas State University.
Now, study led by Steven Le Comber in the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at Queen Mary, University of London, has shown that this method can use the locations of disease cases to identify the source of the disease.
Le Comber, in collaboration with scientists at the University of Miami and Ain Shams University in Cairo, as well as with Rossmo examined a classic study, the 1854 cholera outbreak in London, and more recent cases of malaria in Cairo.
In both cases geographic profiling successfully located the sources of the disease - the Broad Street pump in London, and the breeding habitats of the mosquito Anopheles sergentii in Cairo.
"Correctly applied, geographic profiling shows great promise as a useful component of policy relating to the control of a wide variety of infectious diseases. Evidence-based targeting of interventions like this is more efficient, environmentally friendly and cost effective than untargeted intervention," said Le Comber.
The study was published in BioMed Central's open access journal International Journal of Health Geographics.