Population survey to determine risk factors for Mycobacterium leprae transmission and infection

Mirjam I. Bakker, Mochammad Hatta, Agnes Kwenang, William R. Faber, Stella M. van Beers, Paul R. Klatser, Linda Oskam

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Background Not every leprosy patient is equally effective in transmitting Mycobacterium leprae. We studied the spatial distribution of infection (using seropositivity as a marker) in the population to identify which disease characteristics of leprosy patients are important in transmission. Methods Clinical data and blood samples for anti-M. leprae ELISA were collected during a cross-sectional survey on five Indonesian islands highly endemic for leprosy. A geographic information system (GIS) was used to define contacts of patients. We investigated spatial clustering of patients and seropositive people and used logistic regression to determine risk factors for seropositivity. Results Of the 3986 people examined for leprosy, 3271 gave blood. Seroprevalence varied between islands (1.7-8.7%) and correlated significantly with leprosy prevalence. Five clusters of patients and two clusters of seropositives were detected. In multivariate analysis, seropositivity significantly differed by leprosy status, age, sex, and island. Serological status of patients appeared to be the best discriminator of contact groups with higher seroprevalence: contacts of seropositive patients had an adjusted odds ratio (aOR) of 1.75 (95% CI 0.922-3.31). This increased seroprevalence was strongest for contact groups living less than or equal to75 m of two seropositive patients (aOR = 3.07; 95% CI 1.74-5.42). Conclusions In this highly endemic area for leprosy, not only household contacts of seropositive patients, but also people living in the vicinity of a seropositive patient were more likely to harbour antibodies against M. leprae. Through measuring the serological status of patients and using a broader definition of contacts, higher risk groups can be more specifically identified
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1329-1336
JournalInternational journal of epidemiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2004

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