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1.  Effects of Early Life Paracetamol Use on the Incidence of Allergic Disease and Sensitization: 5 Year Follow-Up of an Ethiopian Birth Cohort 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93869.
The hypothesis that paracetamol, one of the most widely used medicines, may increase the risk of asthma and allergic disease is of obvious importance but prospective cohort data looking at dose and timing of exposure are lacking.
The aim of the study is to investigate the role of paracetamol use in early life on the prevalence and incidence of wheeze, eczema, rhinitis and allergic sensitization, prospectively over 5 years in an Ethiopian birth cohort.
In 2005/6 a birth cohort of 1006 newborns was established in Butajira, Ethiopia. Questionnaire data on allergic disease symptoms, paracetamol use and numerous potential confounders were collected at ages 1, 3 and 5, and allergen skin sensitivity measured at ages 3 and 5. Multivariate logistic regression was used to determine independent effects of paracetamol exposure on the incidence of each outcome between ages 3 and 5, and prevalence at age 5.
Paracetamol use in the first 3 years of life was reported in 60% of children and was associated with increased incidence of wheeze, eczema, rhinitis and allergic sensitisation between ages 3 and 5 which was statistically significant for wheeze and eczema. High exposure (reported use in the past month at age 1 and 3) was associated with a more than 3-fold increased risk of new onset wheeze (adjusted odds ratio (OR) 3.64; 95% confidence interval, 1.34 to 9.90) compared to never users. Use in the past year at age 3 but not age 1 was associated with ORs at least as large as those for use in first year of life only. Significant positive dose-response effects of early life use were seen in relation to the prevalence of all outcomes at age 5.
Use of paracetamol in early life is a strong risk factor for incident allergic disease in childhood.
PMCID: PMC3981735  PMID: 24718577
2.  Stigma towards a Neglected Tropical Disease: Felt and enacted Stigma Scores among Podoconiosis Patients in Northern Ethiopia 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:1178.
Podoconiosis, or non-filarial elephantiasis, is a neglected tropical disease (NTD) characterised by swelling of the lower legs. When left untreated, this disfiguring condition has a significant social impact. This study aimed to describe the stigma experience among podoconiosis patients in Dembecha, Northern Ethiopia and assess potential associations between stigma and sociodemographic determinants.
The study was conducted in May 2012 in Northern Ethiopia. A questionnaire-based cross-sectional study design was used and stigma was assessed using a validated podoconiosis stigma scale including 'felt’ and 'enacted’ stigma domains. Enacted stigma includes the experience of discrimination such as abuse, loss of employment or prejudicial attitudes, while felt stigma is the perceived fear of enacted stigma. A multivariable linear regression model was used to explore determinants that may be associated with stigma.
A total of 346 clinically confirmed podoconiosis patients participated in the study. The total mean score of all stigma scale items was 30.7 (Range = 0 to 96). There was a higher mean score of scale items in domains of felt stigma (21.7; Range = 0 to 45) as compared to enacted stigma (9.0; Range = 0 to 51). The total mean score of all stigma scale items appeared to increase with disease stage. A final adjusted linear regression model found an association between stigma and factors including monthly income, duration lived in the current residence, and disease stage, after controlling for confounders.
Podoconiosis is a stigmatized disease with a clear social impact. This paper documented the burden of podoconiosis-related stigma and identified associated factors. Programs aimed at preventing and treating podoconiosis should incorporate interventions to mitigate both felt and enacted stigma. Interventions targeting patients should prioritize those with advanced disease.
PMCID: PMC3878751  PMID: 24330684
Podoconiosis; Stigma; Discrimination; NTD; Ethiopia
3.  Individual Correlates of Podoconiosis in Areas of Varying Endemicity: A Case-Control Study 
Podoconiosis is a non-filarial form of elephantiasis resulting in lymphedema of the lower legs. Previous studies have suggested that podoconiosis arises from the interplay of individual and environmental factors. Here, our aim was to understand the individual-level correlates of podoconiosis by comparing 460 podoconiosis-affected individuals and 707 unaffected controls.
Methods/principal findings
This was a case-control study carried out in six kebeles (the lowest governmental administrative unit) in northern Ethiopia. Each kebele was classified into one of three endemicity levels: ‘low’ (prevalence <1%), ‘medium’ (1–5%) and ‘high’ (>5%). A total of 142 (30.7%) households had two or more cases of podoconiosis. Compared to controls, the majority of the cases, especially women, were less educated (OR = 1.7, 95% CI = 1.3 to 2.2), were unmarried (OR = 3.4, 95% CI = 2.6–4.6) and had lower income (t = −4.4, p<0.0001). On average, cases started wearing shoes ten years later than controls. Among cases, age of first wearing shoes was positively correlated with age of onset of podoconiosis (r = 0.6, t = 12.5, p<0.0001). Among all study participants average duration of shoe wearing was less than 30 years. Between both cases and controls, people in ‘high’ and ‘medium’ endemicity kebeles were less likely than people in ‘low’ endemicity areas to ‘ever’ have owned shoes (OR = 0.5, 95% CI = 0.4–0.7).
Late use of shoes, usually after the onset of podoconiosis, and inequalities in education, income and marriage were found among cases, particularly among females. There were clustering of cases within households, thus interventions against podoconiosis will benefit from household-targeted case tracing. Most importantly, we identified a secular increase in shoe-wearing over recent years, which may give opportunities to promote shoe-wearing without increasing stigma among those at high risk of podoconiosis.
Author Summary
Podoconiosis is a neglected tropical disease that results in swelling of the lower legs and feet. It is common among barefoot individuals within defined areas due to the geochemical characteristics of the soil in these areas. Presence of podoconiosis and its huge burden among the affected people in north Ethiopia has previously been documented. Moreover, difference in the occurrence of the disease by area and among individuals had been observed. In the present study, we investigated individual factors for the occurrence of podoconiosis, by comparing individuals with podoconiosis and without podoconiosis that live in three areas with varying disease prevalence. We found that individuals with the disease, particularly women, were less educated, with lower income and less likely to be married, compared to healthy individuals. Moreover, more than one individual was found in most of the affected households. Podoconiosis-affected individuals started wearing shoes at later ages than healthy individuals, and their feet were observed to be more cracked and dirty. There is a recent increase in shoe-wearing among all study subjects. We concluded that intervention efforts should focus to address late age shoe-wearing and inequalities in education, income and marriage, between podoconiosis affected individuals, and particularly among female patients. In addition, the presence of more than one patient per household helps for targeted case identification for intervention.
PMCID: PMC3854961  PMID: 24340109
4.  The Association of Beliefs About Heredity with Preventive and Interpersonal Behaviors in Communities Affected by Podoconiosis in Rural Ethiopia 
Little is known about how beliefs about heredity as a cause of health conditions might influence preventive and interpersonal behaviors among those individuals with low genetic and health literacy. We explored causal beliefs about podoconiosis, a neglected tropical disease (NTD) endemic in Ethiopia. Podoconiosis clusters in families but can be prevented if individuals at genetically high risk wear shoes consistently. Adults (N = 242) from four rural Ethiopian communities participated in qualitative assessments of beliefs about the causes of podoconiosis. Heredity was commonly mentioned, with heredity being perceived as (1) the sole cause of podoconiosis, (2) not a causal factor, or (3) one of multiple causes. These beliefs influenced the perceived controllability of podoconiosis and in turn, whether individuals endorsed preventive and interpersonal stigmatizing behaviors. Culturally informed education programs that increase the perceived controllability of stigmatized hereditary health conditions like podoconiosis have promise for increasing preventive behaviors and reducing interpersonal stigma.
PMCID: PMC3516310  PMID: 22826482
5.  The impact of podoconiosis on quality of life in Northern Ethiopia 
Podoconiosis is one of the most neglected tropical diseases, which untreated, causes considerable physical disability and stigma for affected individuals. Little is known about the quality of life (QoL) of patients with podoconiosis. This study aimed to assess the QoL of patients with podoconiosis in comparison with healthy controls in Ethiopia.
A comparative cross-sectional study was conducted in May 2012, among 346 clinically confirmed adult patients with podoconiosis, and 349 healthy adult neighbourhood controls in Dembecha woreda (district) in northern Ethiopia. QoL was assessed using the validated Amharic version of the World Health Organisation Quality of Life questionnaire (WHOQoL-BREF) scale; in addition, mental health and stigma were assessed by the Kessler-10 scale and podoconiosis stigma scale respectively. Logistic regression analysis was done to identify factors associated with QoL.
Patients with podoconiosis had significantly lower mean overall QoL than the controls (52.05 versus 64.39), and this was also true in all four sub domains (physical, psychological, social and environmental). Controls were 7 times more likely to have high (above median) QoL (Odds Ratio = 6.74, 95% Confidence Interval 4.62 to 9.84) than cases. Factors associated with lower QoL were: experiencing high levels of stigma, living in an urban area, being illiterate, having additional co-morbidities, and being unmarried. Mental illness was associated with lower scores in psychological and physical domains.
Programs targeting podoconiosis interventions should include QoL as an indicator for monitoring progress. Interventions targeting improvement of QoL among patients with podoconiosis should address depression, stigma and other co-morbidities.
PMCID: PMC3726315  PMID: 23866905
Podoconiosis; Elephantiasis; Quality of life; Neglected tropical diseases; Ethiopia
6.  Spatial Distribution of Podoconiosis in Relation to Environmental Factors in Ethiopia: A Historical Review 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e68330.
An up-to-date and reliable map of podoconiosis is needed to design geographically targeted and cost-effective intervention in Ethiopia. Identifying the ecological correlates of the distribution of podoconiosis is the first step for distribution and risk maps. The objective of this study was to investigate the spatial distribution and ecological correlates of podoconiosis using historical and contemporary survey data.
Data on the observed prevalence of podoconiosis were abstracted from published and unpublished literature into a standardized database, according to strict inclusion and exclusion criteria. In total, 10 studies conducted between 1969 and 2012 were included, and data were available for 401,674 individuals older than 15 years of age from 229 locations. A range of high resolution environmental factors were investigated to determine their association with podoconiosis prevalence, using logistic regression.
The prevalence of podoconiosis in Ethiopia was estimated at 3.4% (95% CI 3.3%–3.4%) with marked regional variation. We identified significant associations between mean annual Land Surface Temperature (LST), mean annual precipitation, topography of the land and fine soil texture and high prevalence of podoconiosis. The derived maps indicate both widespread occurrence of podoconiosis and a marked variability in prevalence of podoconiosis, with prevalence typically highest at altitudes >1500 m above sea level (masl), with >1500 mm annual rainfall and mean annual LST of 19–21°C. No (or very little) podoconiosis occurred at altitudes <1225 masl, with annual rainfall <900 mm, and mean annual LST of >24°C.
Podoconiosis remains a public health problem in Ethiopia over considerable areas of the country, but exhibits marked geographical variation associated in part with key environmental factors. This is work in progress and the results presented here will be refined in future work.
PMCID: PMC3706425  PMID: 23874587
7.  A Qualitative Study Exploring Barriers Related to Use of Footwear in Rural Highland Ethiopia: Implications for Neglected Tropical Disease Control 
The role of footwear in protection against a range of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) is gaining increasing attention. Better understanding of the behaviors that influence use of footwear will lead to improved ability to measure shoe use and will be important for those implementing footwear programs.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Using the PRECEDE-PROCEED model we assessed social, behavioral, environmental, educational and ecological needs influencing whether and when children wear shoes in a rural highland Ethiopian community endemic for podoconiosis. Information was gathered from 242 respondents using focus groups, semi-structured interviews and extended case studies. Shoe-wearing norms were said to be changing, with going barefoot increasingly seen as ‘shameful’. Shoes were thought to confer dignity as well as protection against injury and cold. However, many practical and social barriers prevented the desire to wear shoes from being translated into practice. Limited financial resources meant that people were neither able to purchase more than one pair of shoes to ensure their longevity nor afford shoes of the preferred quality. As a result of this limited access, shoes were typically preserved for special occasions and might not be provided for children until they reached a certain age. While some barriers (for example fit of shoe and fear of labeling through use of a certain type of shoe) may be applicable only to certain diseases, underlying structural level barriers related to poverty (for example price, quality, unsuitability for daily activities and low risk perception) are likely to be relevant to a range of NTDs.
Using well established conceptual models of health behavior adoption, we identified several barriers to shoe wearing that are amenable to intervention and which we anticipate will be of benefit to those considering NTD prevention through shoe distribution.
Author Summary
Consistently wearing shoes may help in preventing onset or progression of a wide range of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). This study assessed the factors that influenced shoe wearing behaviors among people living in a rural community in highland Ethiopia. In this community, a substantial proportion of people are at risk for podoconiosis, a debilitating lower leg condition that can be prevented by wearing shoes. We conducted semi-structured individual interviews, focus group discussions and extended case studies among 242 adults and systematically analyzed the information. We found that shoe wearing is intermittent, and that different factors such as cost and ability to use the shoes for certain activities (such as farming) influenced consistent shoe wearing for most people. Some factors (such as shoe size, fear of stigma) were more relevant for podoconiosis patients. Social norms were found to be increasingly supportive of shoe wearing, and children exhibited greater desire to wear shoes than adults. These findings have relevance for preventing development and progression of a variety of NTDs in a range of settings.
PMCID: PMC3636134  PMID: 23638211
8.  Podoconiosis and Soil-Transmitted Helminths (STHs): Double Burden of Neglected Tropical Diseases in Wolaita Zone, Rural Southern Ethiopia 
Both podoconiosis and soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections occur among barefoot people in areas of extreme poverty; however, their co-morbidity has not previously been investigated. We explored the overlap of STH infection and podoconiosis in Southern Ethiopia and quantified their separate and combined effects on prevalent anemia and hemoglobin levels in podoconiosis patients and health controls from the same area.
Methods and Principal Findings
A two-part comparative cross-sectional study was conducted in Wolaita zone, southern Ethiopia. Data were collected from adult patients presenting with clinically confirmed podoconiosis, and unmatched adult neighborhood controls living in the same administrative area. Information on demographic and selected lifestyle factors was collected using interviewer-administered questionnaires. Stool samples were collected and examined qualitatively using the modified formalin-ether sedimentation method. Hemoglobin level was determined using two different methods: hemoglobinometer and automated hematology analyzer. A total of 913 study subjects (677 podoconiosis patients and 236 controls) participated. The prevalence of any STH infection was 47.6% among patients and 33.1% among controls (p<0.001). The prevalence of both hookworm and Trichuris trichiura infections was significantly higher in podoconiosis patients than in controls (AOR 1.74, 95% CI 1.25 to2.42, AOR 6.53, 95% CI 2.34 to 18.22, respectively). Not wearing shoes and being a farmer remained significant independent predictors of infection with any STH. There was a significant interaction between STH infection and podoconiosis on reduction of hemoglobin level (interaction p value = 0.002).
Prevalence of any STH and hookworm infection was higher among podoconiosis patients than among controls. A significant reduction in hemoglobin level was observed among podoconiosis patients co-infected with hookworm and ‘non-hookworm STH’. Promotion of consistent shoe-wearing practices may have double advantages in controlling both podoconiosis and hookworm infection in the study area.
Author Summary
Podoconiosis and soil-transmitted helminth infections are neglected tropical diseases occurring among barefoot people in areas of extreme poverty, and both promote poverty through effects on education, economic productivity and disability. In Ethiopia, little research on podoconiosis has been conducted and though social, economic and psychological burdens have been described, no previous study has investigated co-morbidity with other neglected tropical diseases. We therefore aimed to explore the overlap of soil-transmitted helminth infection and podoconiosis in southern Ethiopia by comparing the prevalence of STH infections among podoconiosis patients and healthy controls. We also demonstrate the separate and combined impact of STH infection and podoconiosis on hemoglobin level. We found that the prevalence of any STH and hookworm infection was higher among podoconiosis patients than among controls. A significant reduction in hemoglobin level was observed among podoconiosis patients co-infected with hookworm and ‘non-hookworm STH’. Based on the current findings, integrated control programs that include targeted anthelminthic distribution to control STH among podoconiosis patients, and promotion of consistent shoe-wearing practices are recommended in the study area.
PMCID: PMC3597475  PMID: 23516659
9.  Factors influencing place of delivery for women in Kenya: an analysis of the Kenya demographic and health survey, 2008/2009 
Maternal mortality in Kenya increased from 380/100000 live births to 530/100000 live births between 1990 and 2008. Skilled assistance during childbirth is central to reducing maternal mortality yet the proportion of deliveries taking place in health facilities where such assistance can reliably be provided has remained below 50% since the early 1990s. We use the 2008/2009 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey data to describe the factors that determine where women deliver in Kenya and to explore reasons given for home delivery.
Data on place of delivery, reasons for home delivery, and a range of potential explanatory factors were collected by interviewer-led questionnaire on 3977 women and augmented with distance from the nearest health facility estimated using health facility Global Positioning System (GPS) co-ordinates. Predictors of whether the woman’s most recent delivery was in a health facility were explored in an exploratory risk factor analysis using multiple logistic regression. The main reasons given by the woman for home delivery were also examined.
Living in urban areas, being wealthy, more educated, using antenatal care services optimally and lower parity strongly predicted where women delivered, and so did region, ethnicity, and type of facilities used. Wealth and rural/urban residence were independently related. The effect of distance from a health facility was not significant after controlling for other variables. Women most commonly cited distance and/or lack of transport as reasons for not delivering in a health facility but over 60% gave other reasons including 20.5% who considered health facility delivery unnecessary, 18% who cited abrupt delivery as the main reason and 11% who cited high cost.
Physical access to health facilities through distance and/or lack of transport, and economic considerations are important barriers for women to delivering in a health facility in Kenya. Some women do not perceive a need to deliver in a health facility and may value health facility delivery less with subsequent deliveries. Access to appropriate transport for mothers in labour and improving the experiences and outcomes for mothers using health facilities at childbirth augmented by health education may increase uptake of health facility delivery in Kenya.
PMCID: PMC3585789  PMID: 23414104
Maternal and child health; Maternal mortality; Neonatal mortality; Still birth; Delivery
10.  Factors related to discontinued clinic attendance by patients with podoconiosis in southern Ethiopia: a qualitative study 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:902.
Podoconiosis is a lymphoedema of non-infectious cause which results in long-term ill health in affected individuals. Simple, effective treatment is available in certain parts of Ethiopia, but evidence indicates that not all patients continue collecting treatment supplies from clinic sites once started. We used qualitative techniques to explore factors related to discontinued attendance at outreach clinics of a non-government organization in southern Ethiopia.
A cross-sectional qualitative study was conducted in four clinic sites through unstructured in-depth interviews, key informant interviews and focus group discussions with the involvement of 88 study subjects.
Discontinuation of clinic visits is common among podoconiosis patients. The reasons were: remoteness from the clinic sites, unrealistic expectation of ‘special’ aid, worry about increasing stigma, illness and misconceptions about treatment.
Several of these factors are remediable through community and individual information and education. Appropriate routes to deliver this information must be identified. Certain factors (such as distance to clinic sites and stigma) require substantial expansion of services or liaison with village-level government health services.
PMCID: PMC3503806  PMID: 23095311
Podoconiosis; Factors; Treatment adherence; Ethiopia
11.  The burden of neglected tropical diseases in Ethiopia, and opportunities for integrated control and elimination 
Parasites & Vectors  2012;5:240.
Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a group of chronic parasitic diseases and related conditions that are the most common diseases among the 2·7 billion people globally living on less than US$2 per day. In response to the growing challenge of NTDs, Ethiopia is preparing to launch a NTD Master Plan. The purpose of this review is to underscore the burden of NTDs in Ethiopia, highlight the state of current interventions, and suggest ways forward.
This review indicates that NTDs are significant public health problems in Ethiopia. From the analysis reported here, Ethiopia stands out for having the largest number of NTD cases following Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ethiopia is estimated to have the highest burden of trachoma, podoconiosis and cutaneous leishmaniasis in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the second highest burden in terms of ascariasis, leprosy and visceral leishmaniasis, and the third highest burden of hookworm. Infections such as schistosomiasis, trichuriasis, lymphatic filariasis and rabies are also common. A third of Ethiopians are infected with ascariasis, one quarter is infected with trichuriasis and one in eight Ethiopians lives with hookworm or is infected with trachoma. However, despite these high burdens of infection, the control of most NTDs in Ethiopia is in its infancy. In terms of NTD control achievements, Ethiopia reached the leprosy elimination target of 1 case/10,000 population in 1999. No cases of human African trypanosomiasis have been reported since 1984. Guinea worm eradication is in its final phase. The Onchocerciasis Control Program has been making steady progress since 2001. A national blindness survey was conducted in 2006 and the trachoma program has kicked off in some regions. Lymphatic Filariasis, podoconiosis and rabies mapping are underway.
Ethiopia bears a significant burden of NTDs compared to other SSA countries. To achieve success in integrated control of NTDs, integrated mapping, rapid scale up of interventions and operational research into co implementation of intervention packages will be crucial.
PMCID: PMC3551690  PMID: 23095679
Names of WHO listed neglected tropical disease; Integration; Elimination; Ethiopia
12.  HLA Class II Locus and Susceptibility to Podoconiosis 
The New England Journal of Medicine  2012;366(13):1200-1208.
Podoconiosis is a tropical lymphedema resulting from long-term barefoot exposure to red-clay soil derived from volcanic rock. The World Health Organization recently designated it as a neglected tropical disease. Podoconiosis develops in only a subgroup of exposed people, and studies have shown familial clustering with high heritability (63%).
We conducted a genomewide association study of 194 case patients and 203 controls from southern Ethiopia. Findings were validated by means of family-based association testing in 202 family trios and HLA typing in 94 case patients and 94 controls.
We found a genomewide significant association of podoconiosis with the single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs17612858, located 5.8 kb from the HLA-DQA1 locus (in the allelic model: odds ratio, 2.44; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.82 to 3.26; P = 1.42×10−9; and in the additive model: odds ratio, 2.19; 95% CI, 1.66 to 2.90; P = 3.44×10−8), and suggestive associations (P<1.0×10−5) with seven other SNPs in or near HLA-DQB1, HLA-DQA1, and HLA-DRB1. We confirmed these associations using family-based association testing. HLA typing showed the alleles HLA-DRB1*0701 (odds ratio, 2.00), DQA1*0201 (odds ratio, 1.91), and DQB1*0202 (odds ratio, 1.79) and the HLA-DRB1*0701–DQB1*0202 haplotype (odds ratio, 1.92) were risk variants for podoconiosis.
Association between variants in HLA class II loci with podoconiosis (a noncommuni-cable disease) suggests that the condition may be a T-cell–mediated inflammatory disease and is a model for gene–environment interactions that may be relevant to other complex genetic disorders. (Funded by the Wellcome Trust and others.)
PMCID: PMC3350841  PMID: 22455414
13.  Patients’ perceptions of podoconiosis causes, prevention and consequences in East and West Gojam, Northern Ethiopia 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:828.
Podoconiosis is a form of non-filarial elephantiasis that affects barefoot individuals in highland tropical areas. The disease presents with bilateral, asymmetric swelling of the legs, usually confined to below the knee. This study aimed to assess podoconiosis patients’ perceptions of prevention, control, causes and familial clustering of the disease, and to document physical, social and economic impairments associated with the disease, with the ultimate aim of enabling development of tailored interventions in this region.
This descriptive study is part of the largest cross-sectional community-based household survey yet conducted on podoconiosis. It was completed in November and December, 2011, in Debre Eliyas and Dembecha Woredas of East and West Gojam Zones, northern Ethiopia, and consisted of a house-to-house census by community health workers followed by interviews of identified patients using a structured questionnaire.
In the 17,553 households surveyed, 1,319 patients were identified. More male as compared to female patients were married (84.6% vs. 53.6%, χ2 = 157.1, p < 0.0001) while more female as compared to male patients were divorced (22.5% vs. 3.6%, χ2 = 102.3, p < 0.0001). Less than half of the study subjects believed podoconiosis could be prevented (37.5%) or controlled (40.4%) and many (41.3%) did not know the cause of podoconiosis. Two-fifths of the study subjects had a relative affected with podoconiosis. Approximately 13% of the respondents had experienced one or more forms of social stigmatization. The coping strategies adopted by patients to mitigate the physical impairments caused by podoconiosis were: working only occasionally (44.9%), avoiding physically demanding tasks (32.4%), working fewer hours (21.9%) or completely stopping work (8%). Most study subjects (96.4%) had noticed a decline in their income following the development of podoconiosis, and 78% said they were poorer than their healthy neighbours.
This study shows that podoconiosis has strong psychosocial, physical and economic impacts on patients in East and West Gojam Zones of northern Ethiopia. Concerns related to familial clustering, poor understanding of the causes and prevention of podoconiosis all add to the physical burden imposed by the disease. Strategies that may ease the impact of podoconiosis include delivery of tailored health education on the causes and prevention of disease, involving patients in intervention activities, and development of alternative income-generating activities for treated patients.
PMCID: PMC3519620  PMID: 23020758
14.  Podoconiosis in East and West Gojam Zones, Northern Ethiopia 
Podoconiosis is a neglected tropical disease (NTD) that is prevalent in red clay soil-covered highlands of tropical Africa, Central and South America, and northern India. It is estimated that up to one million cases exist in Ethiopia. This study aimed to estimate the prevalence of podoconiosis in East and West Gojam Zones of Amhara Region in northern Ethiopia.
Methodology/Principal Findings
A cross-sectional household survey was conducted in Debre Eliyas and Dembecha woredas (districts) in East and West Gojam Zones, respectively. The survey covered all 17,553 households in 20 kebeles (administrative subunits) randomly selected from the two woredas. A detailed structured interview was conducted on 1,704 cases of podoconiosis identified in the survey.
The prevalence of podoconiosis in the population aged 15 years and above was found to be 3.3% (95% CI, 3.2% to 3.6%). 87% of cases were in the economically active age group (15–64 years). On average, patients sought treatment five years after the start of the leg swelling. Most subjects had second (42.7%) or third (36.1%) clinical stage disease, 97.9% had mossy lesions, and 53% had open wounds. On average, patients had five episodes of acute adenolymphangitis (ALA) per year and spent a total of 90 days per year with ALA. The median age of first use of shoes and socks were 22 and 23 years, respectively. More men than women owned more than one pair of shoes (61.1% vs. 50.5%; χ2 = 11.6 p = 0.001). At the time of interview, 23.6% of the respondents were barefoot, of whom about two-thirds were women.
This study showed high prevalence of podoconiosis and associated morbidities such as ALA, mossy lesions and open wounds in northern Ethiopia. Predominance of cases at early clinical stage of podoconiosis indicates the potential for reversing the swelling and calls for disease prevention interventions.
Author Summary
Podoconiosis is non-infectious elephantiasis that affects barefoot people that have prolonged exposure to red clay soil. It is common in tropical Africa, central America and northern India. Podoconiosis presents as bilateral below knee swelling. Podoconiosis can be both prevented and controlled by consistently washing feet, wearing shoes, and using antiseptics and emollients. This survey is the biggest conducted to date in Ethiopia: 17,553 households in East and West Gojam Zones of northern Ethiopia were included, and 1,704 patients were identified. We interviewed patients in detail about manifestations of acute attacks (painful inflammation of the foot and leg with swollen lymph nodes and fever), clinical disease stage, treatment seeking, foot washing and shoe wearing practices. We found the prevalence of podoconiosis to be 3.3%. Most patients were farmers, uneducated and within the economically active age group. There was no gender difference in occurrence of podoconiosis and in foot washing practices. The onset of leg swelling and the age of first shoe wearing were similar. We also found delayed treatment seeking and many days confined to bed during acute inflammatory episodes. We conclude that podoconiosis imposes a huge burden in northern Ethiopia.
PMCID: PMC3398962  PMID: 22816005
15.  Correction: Prediction of HLA Class II Alleles Using SNPs in an African Population 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):10.1371/annotation/3529a6a2-4ba2-47dc-929e-399d441b0afa.
PMCID: PMC3393640
16.  Prediction of HLA Class II Alleles Using SNPs in an African Population 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e40206.
Despite the importance of the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) gene locus in research and clinical practice, direct HLA typing is laborious and expensive. Furthermore, the analysis requires specialized software and expertise which are unavailable in most developing country settings. Recently, in silico methods have been developed for predicting HLA alleles using single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). However, the utility of these methods in African populations has not been systematically evaluated.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In the present study, we investigate prediction of HLA class II (HLA-DRB1 and HLA-DQB1) alleles using SNPs in the Wolaita population, southern Ethiopia. The subjects comprised 297 Ethiopians with genome-wide SNP data, of whom 188 had also been HLA typed and were used for training and testing the model. The 109 subjects with SNP data alone were used for empirical prediction using the multi-allelic gene prediction method. We evaluated accuracy of the prediction, agreement between predicted and HLA typed alleles, and discriminative ability of the prediction probability supplied by the model. We found that the model predicted intermediate (two-digit) resolution for HLA-DRB1 and HLA-DQB1 alleles at accuracy levels of 96% and 87%, respectively. All measures of performance showed high accuracy and reliability for prediction. The distribution of the majority of HLA alleles in the study was similar to that previously reported for the Oromo and Amhara ethnic groups from Ethiopia.
We demonstrate that HLA class II alleles can be predicted from SNP genotype data with a high level of accuracy at intermediate (two-digit) resolution in an African population. This finding offers new opportunities for HLA studies of disease epidemiology and population genetics in developing countries.
PMCID: PMC3386230  PMID: 22761960
17.  Addressing the Neglected Tropical Disease Podoconiosis in Northern Ethiopia: Lessons Learned from a New Community Podoconiosis Program 
Despite its great public health importance, few control initiatives addressing podoconiosis (non-filarial elephantiasis, a geochemical neglected tropical disease) exist. In June 2010, the first podoconiosis program in Northern Ethiopia, consisting of prevention, awareness, and care and support activities, began in Debre Markos, Northern Ethiopia. This study aims to document and disseminate the lessons learned from a new community podoconiosis program in Debre Markos.
Methods/Principal Findings
We used a content analysis approach to examine and evaluate data from a series of sources. These sources include conducted interview transcripts, a focus group discussion transcript and secondary sources including monitoring and evaluation field reports, observation notes, and research obtained from a literature review. Themes were identified and grouped into matrix tables. Overall, sixteen program steps were identified and grouped into 6 domains: Initial preparation, training and sensitization, foundation building, treatment activity implementation, awareness, and follow-up. Emphasis is placed on the need for baseline data, effective training, local leadership, experience-sharing, mass-awareness, cross-cutting sector issues (i.e., water and waste management), and integration with government health systems. Related successes and challenges are also described, as are stakeholder roles and misconceptions and socio-cultural challenges affecting the program start-up. Many of the identified successes and challenges are relevant to the aim of the podoconiosis program to be sustainable and community-led.
Much of this information has already been used to improve the Debre Markos program. We also anticipate that the domains and steps identified will be useful in guiding new programs in other settings where podoconiosis is highly prevalent. We hope to encourage partnerships and collaboration among podoconiosis stakeholders in future growth and disease control expansion.
Author Summary
Podoconiosis is a chronic non-infectious disease that causes leg swelling among those living and walking bare-footed in red clay soil areas. It can be prevented and treated primarily by the use of shoes and foot hygiene. In Ethiopia, it is estimated that nearly 11 million people are at risk but few control programs exist. We aimed to assess and document the lessons learned from the first community podoconiosis program started in Northern Ethiopia in June 2010. We conducted interviews and a focus group discussion in addition to examining monitoring and evaluation field reports, observation notes, and other research articles. Overall, sixteen program steps were identified and grouped into 6 domains: Initial preparation, training and sensitization, foundation building, treatment activity implementation, awareness, and follow-up. Related successes and challenges, stakeholder roles, misconceptions and socio-cultural challenges affecting the program start-up were also identified. We hope that the results will be useful in guiding new programs in other settings where podoconiosis is highly prevalent.
PMCID: PMC3302806  PMID: 22428078
18.  Frequent Use of Paracetamol and Risk of Allergic Disease Among Women in an Ethiopian Population 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e22551.
The hypothesis that paracetamol might increase the risk of asthma and other allergic diseases have gained support from a range of independent studies. However, in studies based in developed countries, the possibility that paracetamol and asthma are associated through aspirin avoidance is difficult to exclude.
To explore this hypothesis among women in a developing country, where we have previously reported aspirin avoidance to be rare.
In 2005/6 a population based cohort of 1065 pregnant women was established in Butajira, Ethiopia and baseline demographic data collected. At 3 years post birth, an interview-based questionnaire administered to 945 (94%) of these women collected data on asthma, eczema, and hay fever in the past 12 month, frequency of paracetamol use and potential confounders. Allergen skin tests to Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus and cockroach were also performed. The independent effects of paracetamol use on allergic outcomes were determined using multiple logistic regression analysis.
The prevalence of asthma, eczema and hay fever was 1.7%, 0.9% and 3.8% respectively; of any one of these conditions 5.5%, and of allergen sensitization 7.8%. Paracetamol use in the past month was reported by 29%, and associations of borderline significance were seen for eczema (adjusted OR (95% CI) = 8.51 (1.68 to 43.19) for 1–3 tablets and 2.19 (0.36 to 13.38) for ≥4 tablets, compared to no tablets in the past month; overall p = 0.055) and for ‘any allergic condition’ (adjusted OR (95% CI) = 2.73 (1.22 to 6.11) for 1–3 tablets and 1.35 (0.67 to 2.70) for ≥4 tablets compared to 0 in the past month; overall p = 0.071).
This study provides further cross-sectional evidence that paracetamol use increases the risk of allergic disease.
PMCID: PMC3141069  PMID: 21811632
19.  The Role of Acetaminophen and Geohelminth Infection on the Incidence of Wheeze and Eczema 
Rationale: Acetaminophen has been hypothesized to increase the risk of asthma and allergic disease, and geohelminth infection to reduce the risk, but evidence from longitudinal cohort studies is lacking.
Objectives: To investigate the independent effects of these exposures on the incidence of wheeze and eczema in a birth cohort.
Methods: In 2005–2006 a population-based cohort of 1,065 pregnant women from Butajira, Ethiopia, was established, to whom 1,006 live singleton babies were born. At ages 1 and 3, questionnaire data were collected on wheeze, eczema, child's use of acetaminophen, and various potential confounders, along with a stool sample for geohelminth analysis. Those without wheeze (n = 756) or eczema (n = 780) at age 1 were analyzed to determine the independent effects of geohelminth infection and acetaminophen use in the first year of life on the incidence of wheeze and eczema by age 3.
Measurements and Main Results: Wheeze and eczema incidence between the ages of 1 and 3 were reported in 7.7% (58 of 756) and 7.3% (57 of 780) of children, respectively. Acetaminophen use was significantly associated with a dose-dependent increased risk of incident wheeze (adjusted odds ratio = 1.88 and 95% confidence interval 1.03–3.44 for one to three tablets and 7.25 and 2.02–25.95 for ≥4 tablets in the past month at age 1 vs. never), but not eczema. Geohelminth infection was insufficiently prevalent (<4%) to compute estimates of effect.
Conclusions: These findings suggest frequent acetaminophen use early in life increases the risk of new-onset wheeze, whereas the role of geohelminth infection on allergic disease incidence remains to be seen as the cohort matures.
PMCID: PMC3040388  PMID: 20935107
acetaminophen; parasite; asthma; wheeze; eczema
20.  Burden of Podoconiosis in Poor Rural Communities in Gulliso woreda, West Ethiopia 
Podoconiosis is an environmental lymphoedema affecting people living and working barefoot on irritant red clay soil. Podoconiosis is relatively well described in southern Ethiopia, but remains neglected in other parts of the Ethiopian highlands. This study aimed to assess the burden of podoconiosis in rural communities in western Ethiopia.
Methodology/Principal Findings
A cross-sectional study was conducted in Gulliso woreda (district), west Ethiopia. A household survey in the 26 rural kebeles (villages) of this district was conducted to identify podoconiosis patients and to measure disease prevalence. A more detailed study was done in six randomly selected kebeles to describe clinical features of the disease, patients' experiences of foot hygiene, and shoe wearing practice. 1,935 cases of podoconiosis were registered, giving a prevalence of 2.8%. The prevalence was higher in those aged 15–64 years (5.2%) and in females than males (prevalence ratio 2.6∶1). 90.3% of patients were in the 15–64 year age group. In the detailed study, 335 cases were interviewed and their feet assessed. The majority of patients were farmers, uneducated, and poor. Two-third of patients developed the disease before the age of thirty. Almost all patients (97.0%) had experienced adenolymphangitis (ALA - red, hot legs, swollen and painful groin) at least once during the previous year. Patients experienced an average of 5.5 ALA episodes annually, each of average 4.4 days, thus 24 working days were lost annually. The incidence of ALA in podoconiosis patients was higher than that reported for filariasis in other countries. Shoe wearing was limited mainly due to financial problems.
We have documented high podoconiosis prevalence, frequent adenolymphangitis and high disease-related morbidity in west Ethiopia. Interventions must be developed to prevent, treat and control podoconiosis, one of the core neglected tropical diseases in Ethiopia.
Author Summary
Podoconiosis is a chronic non-infectious disease resulting in below-knee swelling of the legs in bare-footed people living in red clay soil areas. It is an important and yet neglected problem in tropical Africa, central and south America, and north India. Podoconiosis can be prevented by consistently wearing shoes and washing feet. We aimed to assess the burden of the disease, to characterize features of the disease, and to describe foot hygiene and shoe wearing practice of patients in west Ethiopia. First, we did a survey of the 26 rural villages. We identified 1,935 podoconiosis patients, giving a prevalence of 2.8%. Podoconiosis was twice as prevalent in females as males. Second, we did a more detailed study among 335 patients in six randomly selected villages. We found that the majority of patients were farmers, uneducated, and poor. The disease developed before the fourth decade of life and the majority of patients became bed-ridden because of frequent attacks of red, hot legs and swollen and painful groin. Shoe wearing was limited mainly due to lack of money. We conclude that podoconiosis imposes a huge burden in west Ethiopia, and recommend that interventions be developed to prevent, treat and control the disease.
PMCID: PMC3110157  PMID: 21666795
21.  Risky sexual practices and related factors among ART attendees in Addis Ababa Public Hospitals, Ethiopia: A cross-sectional study 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:422.
Many HIV-positive persons avoid risky sexual practices after testing HIV sero-positive. However, a substantial number continue to engage in risky sexual practices that may further transmit the virus, put them at risk of contracting secondary sexually transmitted infections and lead to problems with drug resistance. Thus, this study was intended to assess risky sexual practices and related factors among HIV- positive ART attendees in public hospitals of Addis Ababa.
A cross-sectional study was conducted among ART attendees from February to March, 2009. Questionnaire-based face-to-face interviews were used to gather data. SPSS software was used to perform descriptive and logistic regression analyses.
Six hundred and one ART attendees who fulfilled the inclusion criteria was included in the study and interviewed. More than one-third (36.9%) had a history of risky sexual practices in the three months prior to the study. The major reasons given for not using condoms were: partner's dislike of them, both partners being positive for HIV and the desire to have a child. Factors associated with risky sexual practices included: lack of discussion about condom use (Adjusted Odds Ratio (AOR = 7.23, 95% CI: 4.14, 12.63); lack of self-efficacy in using condoms (AOR = 3.29, 95% CI: 2.07, 5.23); lack of sexual pleasure when using a condom (AOR = 2.39, 95% CI: 1.52, 3.76); and multiple sexual partners (AOR = 2.67, 95% CI: 1.09, 6.57). Being with a negative sero-status partner (AOR = 0.33, 95% CI: 0.14, 0.80), or partners of unknown sero-status (AOR = 0.19, 95% CI: 0.09, 0.39) were associated with less risky practice.
A considerable proportion (36.9%) of respondents engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse, potentially resulting in re-infection by a new virus strain, other sexually transmitted infections and onward transmission of the HIV virus. Health education and counseling which focuses on the identified factors has to be provided. The health education and counseling can be provided to these people at ART appointments on follow- up care. It can be provided in a one-on-one basis or through patient group educational discussions at the clinics.
PMCID: PMC3138456  PMID: 21631935
22.  Effectiveness of a Simple Lymphoedema Treatment Regimen in Podoconiosis Management in Southern Ethiopia: One Year Follow-Up 
Podoconiosis is a non-filarial elephantiasis caused by long-term barefoot exposure to volcanic soils in endemic areas. Irritant silicate particles penetrate the skin, causing a progressive, debilitating lymphoedema of the lower leg, often starting in the second decade of life. A simple patient-led treatment approach appropriate for resource poor settings has been developed, comprising (1) education on aetiology and prevention of podoconiosis, (2) foot hygiene (daily washing with soap, water and an antiseptic), (3) the regular use of emollient, (4) elevation of the limb at night, and (5) emphasis on the consistent use of shoes and socks.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We did a 12-month, non-comparative, longitudinal evaluation of 33 patients newly presenting to one clinic site of a non-government organization (the Mossy Foot Treatment & Prevention Association, MFTPA) in southern Ethiopia. Outcome measures used for the monitoring of disease progress were (1) the clinical staging system for podoconiosis, and (2) the Amharic Dermatology Life Quality Index (DLQI), both of which have been recently validated for use in this setting. Digital photographs were also taken at each visit. Twenty-seven patients completed follow up. Characteristics of patients completing follow-up were not significantly different to those not. Mean clinical stage and lower leg circumference decreased significantly (mean difference -0.67 (95% CI −0.38 to −0.96) and −2.00 (95% CI −1.26 to −2.74), respectively, p<0.001 for both changes). Mean DLQI diminished from 21 (out of a maximum of 30) to 6 (p<0.001). There was a non-significant change in proportion of patients with mossy lesions (p = 0.375).
This simple, resource-appropriate regimen has a considerable impact both on clinical progression and self-reported quality of life of affected individuals. The regimen appears ideal for scaling up to other endemic regions in Ethiopia and internationally. We recommend that further research in the area include analysis of cost-effectiveness of the regimen.
Author Summary
Podoconiosis is a type of leg swelling that occurs in the tropics among subsistence farmers who spend long hours in contact with irritant soil derived from volcanic parent rock. People with this disease often live in very remote areas far from health facilities, and do not realize that the condition can be treated. A patient association in southern Ethiopia has pioneered low cost treatment. We followed 27 patients with podoconiosis through their first year of treatment. The regimen emphasizes understanding the disease process and self-treatment through foot hygiene, elevation of the limb at night, use of emollients, socks and shoes. We made clinical observations, measured quality of life and took digital photographs at the start and after 12 months of self-treatment. Leg circumference decreased by an average of 2 cm, the stage of disease decreased (indicating improvement) by almost one full stage. Quality of life improved dramatically, with patients reporting levels of life quality equivalent to non-patients. Even in a very resource-scarce setting, we have shown that patients benefit physically and psychologically from understanding the disease and being shown how to look after their feet.
PMCID: PMC2994920  PMID: 21152059
23.  Development and testing of a de novo clinical staging system for podoconiosis (endemic non-filarial elephantiasis) 
Podoconiosis (endemic non-filarial elephantiasis) is a geochemical disease in individuals exposed to red-clay soil. Despite the prevalence and public health importance of podoconiosis, there is as yet no accepted clinical staging system.
We aimed to develop and test a robust clinical staging system for podoconiosis.
We adapted the Dreyer system for staging filarial lymphoedema and tested it in four re-iterative field tests conducted in an area of high podoconiosis prevalence in Southern Ethiopia. The system finally arrived at has five stages according to proximal spread of disease and presence of dermal nodules, ridges and bands. We measured the one-week repeatability and the inter-observer agreement of the final staging system.
We have developed a five-stage system that is readily understood by community workers with little health training. Kappa for one-week repeatability was 0.88 (95% CI 0.80 to 0.96), Kappa for agreement between health professionals was 0.71 (95% CI 0.60 to 0.82), while that between health professionals and community podoconiosis agents without formal health training averaged 0.64 (95% CI 0.52 to 0.78).
A simple staging system with good inter-observer agreement and repeatability has been developed to assist in the management and further study of podoconiosis.
PMCID: PMC2992944  PMID: 18721188
podoconiosis; non-filarial elephantiasis; agreement; repeatability; community worker; staging system
24.  Steep declines in population-level AIDS mortality following the introduction of antiretroviral therapy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 
AIDS (London, England)  2009;23(4):511-518.
Assessments of population-level effects of antiretroviral therapy (ART) programs in Africa are rare. We use data from burial sites to estimate trends in adult AIDS mortality and the mitigating effects of ART in Addis Ababa. ART has been available since 2003, and for free since 2005.
To substitute for deficient vital registration, we use surveillance of burials at all cemeteries. We present trends in all-cause mortality, and estimate AIDS mortality (ages 20–64) from lay reports of causes of death. These lay reports are first used as a diagnostic test for the true cause of death. As reference standard we use the cause of death established via verbal autopsy interviews conducted in 2004. The Positive Predictive Value and Sensitivity are subsequently used as anchors to estimate the number of AIDS deaths for the period 2001–2007. Estimates are compared with Spectrum projections.
Between 2001 and 2005, the number of AIDS deaths declined by 21.9% and 9.3% for men and women, respectively. Between 2005 and 2007, the number of AIDS deaths declined by 38.2% for men and 42.9% for women. Compared to the expected number in the absence of ART, the reduction in AIDS deaths in 2007 is estimated between 56.8% and 63.3%, depending on the coverage of the burial surveillance.
Five years into the ART program, adult AIDS mortality has been reduced by more than half. Following the free provision of ART in 2005, the decline accelerated and became more gender balanced. Substantial AIDS mortality, however, persists.
PMCID: PMC2666986  PMID: 19169138
HIV/AIDS; antiretroviral therapy; mortality; population surveillance; vital statistics; verbal autopsy; Ethiopia; Africa
25.  Prevalence and risk factors for soil-transmitted helminth infection in mothers and their infants in Butajira, Ethiopia: a population based study 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:21.
Soil-transmitted helminths (STHs) are widespread in underdeveloped countries. In Ethiopia, the prevalence and distribution of helminth infection varies by place and with age. We therefore investigated the prevalence of and risk factors for STH infection in mothers and their one year-old children living in Butajira town and surrounding rural areas in southern Ethiopia.
In 2005-2006, 1065 pregnant women were recruited in their third trimester of pregnancy. In 2006-2007, when children reached their first birthdays, data on the infants and their mothers were collected, including stool samples for qualitative STH analysis. Questionnaire data on various demographic, housing and lifestyle variables were available. Logistic regression analysis was employed to determine the independent risk factors for STH infection in the mothers and children.
908 mothers and 905 infants provided complete data for analysis. Prevalence of any STH infection was 43.5% (95% confidence interval (CI) 40.2-46.8%) in mothers and 4.9% (95%CI 3.6-6.5%) in children. In the fully adjusted regression model, infrequent use of soap by the mother was associated with increased risk (odds ratio (OR) 1.40, 95% CI 1.04-1.88, and 1.66, 95% CI 0.92-2.99, for use at least once a week and less frequent than once a week respectively, relative to daily use; p for trend = 0.018), and urban place of residence (OR 0.45, 95% CI 0.28-0.73, p = 0.001) was associated with reduced risk of maternal STH infection. The only factor associated with STH infection in infants was household source of water, with the greatest risk in those using piped water inside the compound (OR 0.09, 95% CI 0.02-0.38 for river water, 0.20, 95% CI 0.56-0.69 for either well or stream water and 0.21, 95% CI 0.09-0.51 for piped water outside compared with piped water inside the compound, overall p = 0.002)
In this rural Ethiopian community with a relatively high prevalence of STH infection, we found a reduced risk of infection in relation to maternal hygiene and urban living. Daily use of soap and a safe supply of water are likely to reduce the risk of STH infection.
PMCID: PMC2835680  PMID: 20085635

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