IMPACCT from the BMBF measure "Junior Research Groups Global Change: Climate, Environment and Health" investigates climate- and weather-related changes in pollen and spore in relation to allergies

Public health in a changing climate: The IMPACCT junior research group is developing improved decision support for the risk management of environmental diseases. For example, more accurate pollen forecasts should help allergy sufferers.

New environmental, climate and health problems affecting a large part of the world's population require rapid identification and response. In particular, allergies triggered and exacerbated by different particles, such as pollen or nitrogen oxides, have increased in recent decades in terms of prevalence (number of people affected in the total population), frequency and severity, and have therefore been classified as one of the major global epidemics. Real-time data and sophisticated analyses are essential to address this situation and develop appropriate prevention and protection measures. The researchers of the IMPACCT junior research group will therefore provide answers to the following fundamental questions:

  • How do changing atmospheric conditions due to climate change, such as air temperature, affect particles present in the air as well as biodiversity?
  • What are the effects of climate change on pollen allergies in humans?
  • What factors increase the risk of exacerbation of allergic asthma?

The main objective of IMPACCT is to improve the capacity of pollen forecasting services by developing a novel real-time system that allows optimal first-line treatment of allergies. It also aims to better understand how diverse and dynamic ecosystem parameters interact with social and environmental factors.

The junior research group is developing new and improved methods - based on state-of-the-art informatics and machine learning - for classifying and extracting relevant health information from social media content. These have the potential to record the thoughts and actions, including the current health status, of millions of users on a daily basis. This provides the opportunity to access up-to-date information on health-related behaviours and attitudes for the purpose of early warning and prevention of disease outbreaks. However, the transformation of subjective perceptions into useful data is still in development, which is why the project will work intensively on obtaining reliable information on real-time data on symptoms from social networks. In addition to the impact of future climate change on pollen levels in the atmosphere, the project will also investigate species composition and changes in growing seasons, as well as public health implications.

IMPACCT uses the latest technologies in particle detection, big data management and environmental changes in allergen exposure to gain a better understanding of complex human-environment relationships. The Augsburg region in southern Germany serves as a case study and will be compared with other regions in different bioclimatic areas in cooperation with national and international partners.
The BMBF is funding IMPACCT with 1.0 million euros from 2022 to 2027.

Project management:
Maria P. Plaza
Environmental Medicine, University Hospital Augsburg
Stenglinstraße 2
86156 Augsburg
Phone: +49 821 598 6415

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