Impact of an Urban Sanitation Intervention on Enteric Pathogen Detection in Soils

Environ Sci Technol. 2021 Jul 20;55(14):9989-10000. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.1c02168. Epub 2021 Jul 8.


Environmental fecal contamination is common in many low-income cities, contributing to a high burden of enteric infections and associated negative sequelae. To evaluate the impact of a shared onsite sanitation intervention in Maputo, Mozambique on enteric pathogens in the domestic environment, we collected 179 soil samples at shared latrine entrances from intervention (n = 49) and control (n = 51) compounds during baseline (preintervention) and after 24 months (postintervention) as part of the Maputo Sanitation Trial. We tested soils for the presence of nucleic acids associated with 18 enteric pathogens using a multiplex reverse transcription qPCR platform. We detected at least one pathogen-associated gene target in 91% (163/179) of soils and a median of 3 (IQR = 1, 5) pathogens. Using a difference-in-difference analysis and adjusting for compound population, visibly wet soil, sun exposure, wealth, temperature, animal presence, and visible feces, we estimate the intervention reduced the probability of detecting ≥1 pathogen gene by 15% (adjusted prevalence ratio, aPR = 0.85; 95% CI: 0.70, 1.0) and the total number of pathogens by 35% (aPR = 0.65; 0.44, 0.95) in soil 24 months following the intervention. These results suggest that the intervention reduced the presence of some fecal contamination in the domestic environment, but pathogen detection remained prevalent 24 months following the introduction of new latrines.

Keywords: exposure; fecal sludge management; latrines; onsite sanitation; urban slum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cities
  • Feces
  • Sanitation*
  • Soil*
  • Toilet Facilities


  • Soil