Identifying correlates of Guinea worm (Dracunculus medinensis) infection in domestic dog populations.


Few human infectious diseases have been driven as close to eradication as dracunculiasis, caused by the Guinea worm parasite (Dracunculus medinensis). The number of human cases of Guinea worm decreased from an estimated 3.5 million in 1986 to mere hundreds by the 2010s. In Chad, domestic dogs were diagnosed with Guinea worm for the first time in 2012, and the numbers of infected dogs have increased annually. The presence of the parasite in a non-human host now challenges efforts to eradicate D. medinensis, making it critical to understand the factors that correlate with infection in dogs. In this study, we evaluated anthropogenic and environmental factors most predictive of detection of D. medinensis infection in domestic dog populations in Chad. Using boosted regression tree models to identify covariates of importance for predicting D. medinensis infection at the village and spatial hotspot levels, while controlling for surveillance intensity, we found that the presence of infection in a village was predicted by a combination of demographic (e.g. fishing village identity, dog population size), geographic (e.g. local variation in elevation), and climatic (e.g. precipitation and temperature) factors, which differed between northern and southern villages. In contrast, the presence of a village in a spatial infection hotspot, was primarily predicted by geography and climate. Our findings suggest that factors intrinsic to individual villages are highly predictive of the detection of Guinea worm parasite presence, whereas village membership in a spatial infection hotspot is largely determined by location and climate. This study provides new insight into the landscape-scale epidemiology of a debilitating parasite and can be used to more effectively target ongoing research and possibly eradication and control efforts.

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