Ingestion of Fecal Bacteria along Multiple Pathways by Young Children in Rural Bangladesh Participating in a Cluster-Randomized Trial of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Interventions (WASH Benefits)
November 3, 2020
Laura H. Kwong, Ayse Ercumen, Amy J. Pickering, Joanne E. Arsenault, Mahfuza Islam, Sarker M Parvez, Leanne Unicomb, Mahbubur Rahman, Jennifer Davis, and Stephen P. Luby
Environ Sci Technol. 2020 Nov 3;54(21):13828-13838.
Quantifying the contribution of individual exposure pathways to a child’s total ingestion of fecal matter could help prioritize interventions to reduce environmental enteropathy and diarrhea. This study used data on fecal contamination of drinking water, food, soil, hands, and objects and second-by-second data on children’s contacts with these environmental reservoirs in rural Bangladesh to assess the relative contribution of different pathways to children’s ingestion of fecal indicator bacteria and if ingestion decreased with the water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions implemented in the WASH Benefits Trial. Our model estimated that rural Bangladeshi children <36 months old consume 3.6-4.9 log10 most probable number E. coli/day. Among children <6 months, placing objects in the mouth accounted for 60% of E. coli ingested. For children 6-35 months old, mouthing their own hands, direct soil ingestion, and ingestion of contaminated food were the primary pathways of E. coli ingestion. The amount of E. coli ingested by children and the predominant pathways of E. coli ingestion were unchanged by the water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions. These results highlight contaminated soil, children’s hands, food, and objects as primary pathways of E. coli ingestion and emphasize the value of intervening along these pathways.