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Escherichia coli Contamination across Multiple Environmental Compartments (Soil, Hands, Drinking Water, and Handwashing Water) in Urban Harare: Correlations and Risk Factors

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Julian Timothy R., Mosler Hans-Joachim, Friedrich Max N. D., Navab-Daneshmand Tala, Montealegre Maria Camila, Gächter Marja, Nhiwatiwa Tamuka, Mlambo Linn S.,
Project Growth kinetics and gene transfer of enteric and environmental E. coli in domestic settings
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Volume (Issue) 98(3)
Page(s) 803 - 813
Title of proceedings The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
DOI 10.4269/ajtmh.17-0521

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


Escherichia coli pathotypes (i.e., enteropathogenic and enterotoxigenic) have been identified among the pathogens most responsible for moderate-to-severe diarrhea in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Pathogenic E. coli are transmitted from infected human or animal feces to new susceptible hosts via environmental reservoirs such as hands, water, and soil. Commensal E. coli, which includes nonpathogenic E. coli strains, are widely used as fecal bacteria indicator, with their presence associated with increased likelihood of enteric pathogens and/or diarrheal disease. In this study, we investigated E. coli contamination in environmental reservoirs within households (N = 142) in high-population density communities of Harare, Zimbabwe. We further assessed the interconnectedness of the environmental compartments by investigating associations between, and household-level risk factors for, E. coli contamination. From the data we collected, the source and risk factors for E. coli contamination are not readily apparent. One notable exception is the presence of running tap water on the household plot, which is associated with significantly less E. coli contamination of drinking water, handwashing water, and hands after handwashing. In addition, E. coli levels on hands after washing are significantly associated with handwashing water contamination, hand contamination before washing, and diarrhea incidence. Finally, we observed that animal ownership increases E. coli contamination in soil, and E. coli in soil are correlated with contamination on hands before washing. This study highlights the complexity of E. coli contamination in household environments within LMICs. More, larger, studies are needed to better identify sources and exposure pathways of E. coli—and enteric pathogens generally—to identify effective interventions.