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Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE): Quality-assessed Reviews [Internet]. York (UK): Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (UK); 1995-.

Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE): Quality-assessed Reviews.

Effects of sewerage on diarrhoea and enteric infections: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Review published: 2010.

Bibliographic details: Norman G, Pedley S, Takkouche B.  Effects of sewerage on diarrhoea and enteric infections: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Infectious Diseases 2010; 10(8): 536-544. [PubMed: 20620115]

Quality assessment

The authors concluded that sewerage interventions seemed to reduce the incidence of diarrhoea and related outcomes. Although the applicability of the results to other countries was unclear, the quality of included studies was limited and there were differences between studies, this was a well-conducted review. The authors' cautious conclusions reflect the evidence presented and are likely to be reliable. Full critical summary


BACKGROUND: Sanitation is inadequate in most cities in developing countries, with major effects on infectious disease burden: in this situation, is piped sewerage an appropriate solution, or should efforts focus on systems based on onsite solutions, such as latrines? We reviewed the effects of the presence of sewerage systems on diarrhoeal disease and related outcomes. We included only observational studies because so far there have been no randomised controlled trials.

METHODS: We identified relevant studies by use of a comprehensive strategy including searches of Medline and other databases from 1966 to February, 2010. In studies that compared sewerage with one other sanitation category, we used relative risk (RR) estimates for sewerage versus the other category. When a single study made two or more comparisons, we calculated a weighted average RR value, and used this value in our meta-analysis. We used the most adjusted RR estimate provided by the authors; if no adjusted estimate was available, we used the crude estimate. To obtain pooled-effect estimates, meta-analyses were done by use of an inverse variance method-ie, the study-specific adjusted log ORs for case-control and cross-sectional studies, and log RRs for cohort studies, were weighted by the inverse of their variance to compute a pooled RR with 95% CI.

FINDINGS: 25 studies investigated the association between sewerage and diarrhoea or related outcomes, including presence of intestinal nematodes. Pooled estimates show that sewerage systems typically reduce diarrhoea incidence by about 30% (RR 0.70, 95% CI 0.61-0.79), or perhaps as much as 60% when starting sanitation conditions are very poor. Studies with objective outcome measures showed even stronger pooled effect than studies that assessed diarrhoea incidence with interviews, while sensitivity analysis indicated that the effect remains even if we assume strong residual confounding.

INTERPRETATION: Sewerage interventions seem to reduce the incidence of diarrhoea and related outcomes. However, we urge cautious interpretation of these findings, because, in many contexts, sewerage might be less cost effective and sustainable than onsite alternatives.


2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

CRD has determined that this article meets the DARE scientific quality criteria for a systematic review.

Copyright © 2013 University of York.

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