Introduction: Understanding the number of cases of podoconiosis, its geographical distribution and the population at risk are crucial to estimating the burden of this disease in endemic countries. We assessed each of these using nationwide data on podoconiosis prevalence in Cameroon.
Methods: We analysed data arising from two cross-sectional surveys in Cameroon. The dataset was combined with a suite of environmental and climate data and analysed within a robust statistical framework, which included machine learning-based approaches and geostatistical modelling. The environmental limits, spatial variation of predicted prevalence, population at risk and number of cases of podoconiosis were each estimated.
Results: A total of 214 729 records of individuals screened for podoconiosis were gathered from 748 communities in all 10 regions of Cameroon. Of these screened individuals, 882 (0.41%; 95% CI 0.38 to 0.44) were living with podoconiosis. High environmental suitability for podoconiosis was predicted in three regions of Cameroon (Adamawa, North West and North). The national population living in areas environmentally suitable for podoconiosis was estimated at 5.2 (95% CI 4.7 to 5.8) million, which corresponds to 22.3% of Cameroon's population in 2015. Countrywide, in 2015, the number of adults estimated to be suffering from podoconiosis was 41 556 (95% CI, 1170 to 240 993). Four regions (Central, Littoral, North and North West) contributed 61.2% of the cases.
Conclusion: In Cameroon, podoconiosis is more widely distributed geographically than was initially expected. The number of cases and the population at risk are considerable. Expanding morbidity management and follow-up of cases is of utmost necessity. Promotion of footwear use and regular foot hygiene should be at the forefront of any intervention plan.
Keywords: cameroon; elephantiasis; lymphedema; mapping; non-filarial; podoconiosis.