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Ann Trop Med Parasitol. 2005 Apr;99(3):229-36.

Household structure and urban services: neglected targets in the control of visceral leishmaniasis.

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  • 1Instituto de Doenças Tropicais Nathan Portella and Universidade Federal do Piauí, Rua Governador Raimundo Artur de Vasconcelos, 151, CEP 64001-450, Teresina, PI, Brazil.


Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) caused by Leishmania chagasi is a growing public-health problem in many parts of the New World. Although several studies have focused on the consequences of environmental damage, human migration and land occupation on the incidence of VL, the effects on the disease of the substandard living conditions that often result from the process of urbanization have not been investigated in detail. The present study was based in the Brazilian city of Teresina, where, since 1980, there have been two large outbreaks of VL (one in 1981-1985 and the other in 1993-1996), each involving at least 1000 newly reported cases. The role of household structure and the provision of urban services in the city, as predictors of the occurrence of VL, was studied in a case-control investigation. After controlling for age, crowding, and the background incidence of VL in the area where the subjects lived, the risk of acquiring the disease was found to be significantly higher for those who lived in houses with an inadequate sewage system and those who had no regular rubbish collection. Improving household structure and providing basic urban services might be effective strategies for controlling the spread of VL in urban areas.

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