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Google Brain to Prevent Insect-borne Diseases!

Google Brain Researchers are using recovered data sets from the 1940s that are restored by Google Books to list out repellents for disease-causing insects like ticks and mosquitoes and developing sensory odor maps in computers.

Stuti Das
Google Brain finds 10 molecules more potent than DEET
Google Brain finds 10 molecules more potent than DEET

A team of researchers at Google Brain have undertaken the mighty task of preventing insect borne diseases like dengue, malaria and Lyme disease by chalking out new repellents from massive but forgotten insect repellent data sets from the late 1940s.

Due to climate change, erratic rise in temperature and untimely rainfalls have proven to be deadly as insects like mosquitoes and ticks multiply during these spells spreading disease outbreaks, especially in tropical regions.

The Google Brain team was recently able to discover that mosquitos have more so a similar sense of smell as humans. They use their sense of smell to locate prey and chemical repellents confuse their sense of smell; which diverts them from possible victims, ultimately reducing the spread of pathogens. 

Alex Wiltschko, a former Google Brain researcher, and now entrepreneur in residence at Google Ventures, expounded that, “My team is focused on giving computers a sense of smell. As we reviewed predictions of the neural networks we trained to predict what molecules smell like to people, we found that they were also useful to predict how the 'smell parts' of the brains of insects respond to the same molecules.”

The method of repellents being used to prevent insect bite is already in play. Google Brain is now attempting to train computers that would be able to identify smells of these repellents and aid in producing a safer, cheaper and more effective repellent to stop disease outbreaks. 

The data sets were of a research conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture during World War II. However, Google Brain had a difficult time comprehending the sets as they were recorded in notebooks and in a huge number, some unindexed. The same data sets were procured and digitized by Google Books which helped the Google Brain team find the incomplete data sets from 40 million volumes in Google Books database. 

The USDA study of 1942 laid out the path for DEET to come into existence, which was used in the Army during the 1946s. Google Brain Team tracked down TropIQ’s research on insect-borne diseases and deciphered that good repellents in 1942 are still relevant today. With regressive study they found 10 molecules which had more repellency than DEET itself. 

Google Books Senior Library Partnerships Manager Ben Bunnell shared, “Scientists did rigorous tests for these research projects. It’s really well-recorded scientific information, and it sits there in print for decades — its existence getting lost in time. Now we can take tools that didn’t exist in the ‘40s and use their research to extrapolate information that can potentially save lives today.”

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