Household Determinants of Environmental Contamination in Northern Coastal Ecuador Open Access

Pennings, Breanna (Spring 2019)

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Background: In developing countries, diarrhea is the second leading cause of death for children under five. Diarrhea may have a greater burden of disease than previously estimated. One cause of diarrhea, enteric bacteria, commonly enter the body through the mouth and can be acquired through contaminated food and water. This contamination can occur from human contact with animals, contact with the environment (i.e., soil, water), or contact with human feces. The northern coast of Ecuador has high levels of enteric pathogen transmission.

Goal: The purpose of this study was to answer the question: What household factors are associated with environmental contamination among households in Esmeraldas, Ecuador? The study aims are to describe the level of environmental contamination among households (Aim 1) and identify associations of household characteristics with environmental samples (Aim 2). Finally, we aim to assess the viability and feasibility of environmental sample collection and survey questions in order to inform future studies (Aim 3).

Methods: This was a descriptive study, which took place in Esmeraldas, Ecuador from June to August of 2018. Household characteristics (i.e., sociodemographic and household information) and environmental samples (water source, child’s drinking water, mother’s hand rinse, child’s hand rinse, sentinel ball, sentinel duck, food preparation surface swab, and child’s eating location swab) were collected from participating households.

Results: Using Pearson Correlation with log10 transformation, Mother’s hand rinse E. coli counts were shown to be positively correlated with E. coli on food preparation location as well as the location were the child eats. The E. coli in household water sources were positively correlated with the child’s drinking water (Aim 1). A paired-samples t-test showed that sentinel toy E. coli counts were higher in households who have stored water (Aim 2). The average time each same took to be fully processed was 9.53 minutes (not including the incubation time of 24hrs +/- 2hrs) (Aim 3).

Discussion: Exploratory analyses between environmental E. coli results and household characteristics support the conclusion that household characteristics influence contamination. Future research examining environmental contaminants in Ecuador should consider limitations with water collection and time needed to process samples via membrane filtration. 

Table of Contents


Indicators of Environmental Contamination…2

Transmission Pathways…3



Household characteristics…4


Study Design…6

Study Population…6



Household characteristics…7

Environmental samples…8

Sample Processing…9

Household characteristics…9

Environmental samples…9

Statistical Analysis…10

Aim 1…10

Aim 2…12

Aim 3…13

Results 13

Study Flow…13

Household Characteristics…14

Aim 1…14

Aim 2…16

Aim 3…16






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