Patterns of intestinal schistosomiasis among mothers and young children from Lake Albert, Uganda: water contact and social networks inferred from wearable global positioning system dataloggers

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Edmund Y. W. Seto
José C. Sousa-Figueiredo
Martha Betson
Chris Byalero
Narcis B. Kabatereine
J. Russell Stothard *
(*) Corresponding Author:
J. Russell Stothard | jrstoth@liv.ac.uk

Abstract

The establishment of a national control programme (NCP) in Uganda has led to routine treatment of intestinal schistosomiasis with praziquantel in the communities along Lake Albert. However, because regular water contact remains a way of life for these populations, re-infection continues to mitigate the sustainability of the chemotherapy-based programme. A six-month longitudinal study was conducted in one Lake Albert community with the aim of characterizing water contact exposure and infection among mothers and their young preschool-aged children as the latter are not yet formally included within the NCP. At baseline the cohort of 37 mothers, 36 preschool-aged children had infection prevalences of 62% and 67%, respectively, which diminished to 20% and 29%, respectively, at the 6-month post-treatment follow-up. The subjects wore global positioning system (GPS) datalogging devices over a 3-day period shortly after baseline, allowing for the estimation of time spent at the lakeshore as an exposure metric, which was found to be associated with prevalence at follow-up (OR = 2.1, P = 0.01 for both mothers and young children and odds ratio (OR) = 4.4, P = 0.01 for young children alone). A social network of interpersonal interactions was also derived from the GPS data, and the exposures were positively associated both with the number and duration of peer interaction, suggesting the importance of socio-cultural factors associated with water contact behaviour. The findings illustrate reduction in both prevalence and intensity of infection in this community after treatment as well as remarkably high rates of water contact exposure and re-infection, particularly among younger children. We believe that this should now be formally considered within NCP, which may benefit from more in-depth ethnographic exploration of factors related to water contact as this should provide new opportunities for sustaining control.

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