Micro-scale Spatial Clustering of Cholera Risk Factors in Urban Bangladesh

Citation: Bi Q, Azman AS, Satter SM, Khan AI, Ahmed D, Riaj AA, et al. (2016) Micro-scale Spatial Clustering of Cholera Risk Factors in Urban Bangladesh. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 10(2): e0004400. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0004400
Published: February 11, 2016

Cholera_bacteriaClose interpersonal contact likely drives spatial clustering of cases of cholera and diarrhea, but spatial clustering of risk factors may also drive this pattern. Few studies have focused specifically on how exposures for disease cluster at small spatial scales. Improving our understanding of the micro-scale clustering of risk factors for cholera may help to target interventions and power studies with cluster designs. We selected sets of spatially matched households (matched-sets) near cholera case households between April and October 2013 in a cholera endemic urban neighborhood of Tongi Township in Bangladesh. We collected data on exposures to suspected cholera risk factors at the household and individual level. We used intra-class correlation coefficients (ICCs) to characterize clustering of exposures within matched-sets and households, and assessed if clustering depended on the geographical extent of the matched-sets. Clustering over larger spatial scales was explored by assessing the relationship between matched-sets. We also explored whether different exposures tended to appear together in individuals, households, and matched-sets. Household level exposures, including: drinking municipal supplied water (ICC = 0.97, 95%CI = 0.96, 0.98), type of latrine (ICC = 0.88, 95%CI = 0.71, 1.00), and intermittent access to drinking water (ICC = 0.96, 95%CI = 0.87, 1.00) exhibited strong clustering within matched-sets. As the geographic extent of matched-sets increased, the concordance of exposures within matched-sets decreased. Concordance between matched-sets of exposures related to water supply was elevated at distances of up to approximately 400 meters. Household level hygiene practices were correlated with infrastructure shown to increase cholera risk. Co-occurrence of different individual level exposures appeared to mostly reflect the differing domestic roles of study participants. Strong spatial clustering of exposures at a small spatial scale in a cholera endemic population suggests a possible role for highly targeted interventions. Studies with cluster designs in areas with strong spatial clustering of exposures should increase sample size to account for the correlation of these exposures.

Author Summary: While clustering of cholera incidence had been previously described, the relative role of similar risk behaviors versus transmission dynamics is not well understood. We explored how risk factors for cholera clustered at the sub-community scale, and found significant more correlation in risk behaviors among spatially matched households than the community as a whole. We found clustering of single risk factors, and co-occurrence of different risk factors. Our results indicated that the distribution of risk behaviors may play a role in the clustering of cholera cases at very small (e.g., <100m) spatial scales. This had implications for spatially matched study designs, which may be overmatching on some exposures. It also may lead us to rethink targeted interventions, suggesting a role for more intensive highly targeted interventions as a supplement to more generalized campaigns.


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