The recent emergence of leptospirosis has been linked to many environmental drivers of disease transmission. Accurate epidemiological data are lacking because of under-diagnosis, poor laboratory capacity, and inadequate surveillance. Predictive risk maps have been produced for many diseases to identify high-risk areas for infection and guide allocation of public health resources, and are particularly useful where disease surveillance is poor. To date, no predictive risk maps have been produced for leptospirosis. The objectives of this study were to estimate leptospirosis seroprevalence at geographic locations based on environmental factors, produce a predictive disease risk map for American Samoa, and assess the accuracy of the maps in predicting infection risk.
Methodology and Principal Findings
Data on seroprevalence and risk factors were obtained from a recent study of leptospirosis in American Samoa. Data on environmental variables were obtained from local sources, and included rainfall, altitude, vegetation, soil type, and location of backyard piggeries. Multivariable logistic regression was performed to investigate associations between seropositivity and risk factors. Using the multivariable models, seroprevalence at geographic locations was predicted based on environmental variables. Goodness of fit of models was measured using area under the curve of the receiver operating characteristic, and the percentage of cases correctly classified as seropositive. Environmental predictors of seroprevalence included living below median altitude of a village, in agricultural areas, on clay soil, and higher density of piggeries above the house. Models had acceptable goodness of fit, and correctly classified ∼84% of cases.
Conclusions and Significance
Environmental variables could be used to identify high-risk areas for leptospirosis. Environmental monitoring could potentially be a valuable strategy for leptospirosis control, and allow us to move from disease surveillance to environmental health hazard surveillance as a more cost-effective tool for directing public health interventions.
Leptospirosis is the most common bacterial infection transmitted from animals to humans. Infected animals excrete the bacteria in their urine, and humans can become infected through contact with animals or a contaminated environment such as water and soil. Environmental factors are important in determining the risk of human infection, and differ between ecological settings. The wide range of risk factors include high rainfall and flooding; poor sanitation and hygiene; urbanisation and overcrowding; contact with animals (including rodents, livestock, pets, and wildlife); outdoor recreation and ecotourism; and environmental degradation. Predictive risk maps have been produced for many infectious diseases to identify high-risk areas for transmission and guide allocation of public health resources. Maps are particularly useful where disease surveillance and epidemiological data are poor. The objectives of this study were to estimate leptospirosis seroprevalence at geographic locations based on environmental factors, produce a predictive disease risk map for American Samoa, and assess the accuracy of the maps in predicting infection risk. This study demonstrated the value of geographic information systems and disease mapping for identifying environmental risk factors for leptospirosis, and enhancing our understanding of disease transmission. Similar principles could be used to investigate the epidemiology of leptospirosis in other areas.