A geographical analysis of the role of water supply and sanitation in the risk of helminth infections of children in West Africa

Ricardo J., Soares Magalhães, Barnett, Adrian G., & Clements, Archie (2011) A geographical analysis of the role of water supply and sanitation in the risk of helminth infections of children in West Africa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), 108(50), pp. 20084-20089.

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We investigated the geographical variation of water supply and sanitation indicators (WS&S) and their role to the risk of schistosomiasis and hookworm infection in school age children in West Africa. The aim was to predict large-scale geographical variation in WS&S, quantify the attributable risk of S. haematobium, S. mansoni and hookworm infections due to WS&S and identify communities where sustainable transmission control could be targeted across the region.


National cross-sectional household-based demographic health surveys were conducted in 24,542 households in Burkina Faso, Ghana and Mali, in 2003–2006. We generated spatially-explicit predictions of areas without piped water, toilet facilities and finished floors in West Africa, adjusting for household covariates. Using recently published helminth prevalence data we developed Bayesian geostatistical models (MGB) of S. haematobium, S. mansoni and hookworm infection in West Africa including environmental and the mapped outputs for WS&S. Using these models we estimated the effect of WS&S on parasite risk, quantified their attributable fraction of infection, and mapped the risk of infection in West Africa.


Our maps show that most areas in West Africa are very poorly served by water supply except in major urban centers. There is a better geographical coverage for toilet availability and improved household flooring. We estimated smaller attributable risks for water supply in S. mansoni (47%) compared to S. haematobium (71%), and 5% of hookworm cases could be averted by improving sanitation. Greater levels of inadequate sanitation increased the risk of schistosomiasis, and increased levels of unsafe water supply increased the risk of hookworm. The role of floor type for S. haematobium infection (21%) was comparable to that of S. mansoni (16%), but was significantly higher for hookworm infection (86%). S. haematobium and hookworm maps accounting for WS&S show small clusters of maximal prevalence areas in areas bordering Burkina Faso and Mali smaller. The map of S. mansoni shows that this parasite is much more wide spread across the north of the Niger River basin than previously predicted.


Our maps identify areas where the Millennium Development Goal for water and sanitation is lagging behind. Our results show that WS&S are important contributors to the burden of major helminth infections of children in West Africa. Including information about WS&S as well as the “traditional” environmental risk factors in spatial models of helminth risk yielded a substantial gain both in model fit and at explaining the proportion of spatial variance in helminth risk. Mapping the distribution of infection risk adjusted for WS&S allowed the identification of communities in West Africa where integrative preventive chemotherapy and engineering interventions will yield the greatest public health benefits.

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ID Code: 46823
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: helminth infection, Africa, geostatistical, water supply, sanitation
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1106784108
ISSN: 1091-6490
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700) > Epidemiology (111706)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2011 National Academy of Sciences (US)
Deposited On: 04 Nov 2011 02:14
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2013 00:04

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