Exposure to industrial hog and poultry operations and urinary tract infections in North Carolina, USA

Sci Total Environ. 2022 Dec 20:853:158749. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.158749. Epub 2022 Sep 13.


An increasing share of urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli (ExPEC) lineages that have also been identified in poultry and hogs with high genetic similarity to human clinical isolates. We investigated industrial food animal production as a source of uropathogen transmission by examining relationships of hog and poultry density with emergency department (ED) visits for UTIs in North Carolina (NC). ED visits for UTI in 2016-2019 were identified by ICD-10 code from NC's ZIP code-level syndromic surveillance system and livestock counts were obtained from permit data and aerial imagery. We calculated separate hog and poultry spatial densities (animals/km2) by Census block with a 5 km buffer on the block perimeter and weighted by block population to estimate mean ZIP code densities. Associations between livestock density and UTI incidence were estimated using a reparameterized Besag-York-Mollié (BYM2) model with ZIP code population offsets to account for spatial autocorrelation. We excluded metropolitan and offshore ZIP codes and assessed effect measure modification by calendar year, ZIP code rurality, and patient sex, age, race/ethnicity, and health insurance status. In single-animal models, hog exposure was associated with increased UTI incidence (rate ratio [RR]: 1.21, 95 % CI: 1.07-1.37 in the highest hog-density tertile), but poultry exposure was associated with reduced UTI rates (RR: 0.86, 95 % CI: 0.81-0.91). However, the reference group for single-animal poultry models included ZIP codes with only hogs, which had some of the highest UTI rates; when compared with ZIP codes without any hogs or poultry, there was no association between poultry exposure and UTI incidence. Hog exposure was associated with increased UTI incidence in areas that also had medium to high poultry density, but not in areas with low poultry density, suggesting that intense hog production may contribute to increased UTI incidence in neighboring communities.

Keywords: Besag-York-Mollié (BYM) model; Concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO); Ecological regression analysis; Extraintestinal pathogenic E.coli (ExPEC); Foodborne urinary tract infection (fUTI); Syndromic surveillance.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Livestock
  • North Carolina / epidemiology
  • Poultry*
  • Swine
  • Urinary Tract Infections* / epidemiology
  • Urinary Tract Infections* / veterinary