RealForAll: Real-time measurements and forecasting for successful prevention and management of seasonal allergies in Croatia-Serbia cross-border region (project ID: HR-RS151)

Exposure to aeroallergens is associated with allergic rhinitis and asthma that significantly reduce quality of life and have a notable economic impact on society in the Croatia-Serbia cross-border region (Figure 1). Numerous sources of allergenic airborne pollen are present in the region resulting in exposure to strong allergens (e.g. birch trees, grass, common ragweed) on both sides of the border.

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Figure 1. Map showing Croatia-Serbia cross border region

Information on exposure risk is prerequisite for preventing symptoms and management allergic disease. In order to assist life with allergies and supportin self-management of symptoms, such information needs to be provided and disseminated to end users on time. There is a long term awareness on the importance of aerobiological data in Croatia-Serbia cross-border region and well developed network of aerobiological stations. The monitoring has started more than 15 years ago, but applied methodology using the volumetric spore trap of the Hirst design provides only past data (1-7 days old). Such data, from public health point of view, can be used for observational retrospective analysis and strategy development only. In order to be of use for improvement the quality of life in pollen sensitive population, public health system in the region should provide real-time measurements of atmospheric pollen concentrations and forecasts, similarly as seen in the case of meteorology and airborne pollutants where assimilation of real-time data is necessary to increase the performance of atmospheric models.

Allergenic airborne pollen sources are distributed on both sides of the Croatia-Serbia cross-border region. After emission pollen is transported by air masses over the national borders and thus can have adverse health effects not only locally but in entire cross-border region. Such phenomenon requires joint approach in monitoring and free access to data and information. A consortium consisted of BioSensе Institute – Research Institute for Information Technologies in Biosystems (Serbia), University of Novi Sad Faculty of Sciences (Serbia), University of Osijek (Croatia), City of Osijek (Croatia) has been established to implement RealForAll project (from 15th July 2017 to 14th January 2020) with the main objective to enable public health system that fulfils a role in assisting successful prevention and management of allergic reactions resulting from exposure to allergenic airborne pollen in the region. To achieve this RealForAll will set up a network of devices for real-time measurements of airborn pollen concentration and develop long term and short term forecasting mathematical models. A longterm forecast which will be based on the already existing daily data, available for regions in both countries, in combination with meteorological data . In this kind of models one has to pay attention to transitional pollen at the beginning of the season as well as to the locally generated pollen. Using realtime measurements and weather forecast a short term forecast models will also be developed. Particularly challenging part appears to be the very nature of the data. We are dealing with real time pollen concentration measurements in urban environment and relatively far away from the source. Thus the measurements are sensitive to climate conditions like wind and humidity. Furthermore, the natural cycle of plants has its own laws. Typical daily concentration has a Gaussian shape with increasing mean until the pick value in each season and then the mean value declines flatening the Gaussian curve towards the end of season. Spreading of pollen obeys physical laws of particle transportation and can be described by a stochastic PDE. Thus we are planning to combine methods of optimization – machine learning and stochastic PDEs to develop a short term forecast model.

RealForAll project is co-financed by the Interreg IPA Cross-border Cooperation programme Croatia – Serbia 2014-2020

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