Direct association between rainfall and non-typhoidal Salmonella bloodstream infections in hospital-admitted children in the Democratic Republic of Congo


Bieke Tack, Daniel Vita, Marie-France Phoba, Lisette Mbuyi-Kalonji, Liselotte Hardy, Barbara Barbé, Jan Jacobs, Octavie Lunguya, Liesbet Jacobs


Non-typhoidal Salmonella (NTS) ranks first among causes of bloodstream infection in children under five years old in the Democratic Republic of Congo and has a case fatality rate of 15%. Main host-associated risk factors are Plasmodium falciparum malaria, anemia and malnutrition. NTS transmission in sub-Saharan Africa is poorly understood. NTS bloodstream infections mostly occur during the rainy season, which may reflect seasonal variation in either environmental transmission or host susceptibility. We hypothesized that environment- and host-associated factors contribute independently to the seasonal variation in NTS bloodstream infections in children under five years old admitted to Kisantu referral hospital in 2013-2019. We used remotely sensed rainfall and temperature data as proxies for environmental factors and hospital data for host-associated factors. We used principal component analysis to disentangle the interrelated environment- and host-associated factors. With timeseries regression, we demonstrated a direct association between rainfall and NTS variation, independent of host-associated factors. While the latter explained 17.5% of NTS variation, rainfall explained an additional 9%. The direct association with rainfall points to environmental NTS transmission, which should be explored by environmental sampling studies. Environmental and climate change may increase NTS transmission directly or via host susceptibility, which highlights the importance of preventive public health interventions.

Click here to read the article, published in Nature.