Soil iron and aluminium concentrations and feet hygiene as possible predictors of Podoconiosis occurrence in Kenya.
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BACKGROUND: Podoconiosis (mossy foot) is a neglected non-filarial elephantiasis considered to be caused by predisposition to cumulative contact of uncovered feet to irritative red clay soil of volcanic origins in the tropical regions. Data from structured observational studies on occurrence of Podoconiosis and related factors are not available in Kenya. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: To establish the occurrence and aspects associated with Podoconiosis, a cross-sectional survey was implemented in an area located within 30 km from the foot of volcanic Mount Longonot in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya. Five villages and 385 households were selected using multistage and systematic random sampling procedures respectively during the survey. Podoconiosis was determined by triangulating (1) the clinical diagnosis, (2) molecular assaying of sputum samples to rule out Wuchereria bancrofti microfilaria and (3) determining the concentration of six elements and properties in the soil known to be associated with Podoconiosis. A structured questionnaire was used to identify possible risk factors. Univariable and multivariable Poisson regression analyses were carried out to determine factors associated with Podoconiosis. Thirteen participants were clinically positive for Podoconiosis giving an overall prevalence of 3.4%. The prevalence ranged between 0% and 18.8% across the five villages. Molecular assay for W. bancrofti test turned negative in the 13 samples. The following factors were positively associated with the Podoconiosis prevalence (P<0.1) in the univariable analyses: (i) age, (ii) gender, (iii) education level, (iv) frequency of washing legs, (v) frequency of wearing shoes, (vi) soil pH, and (vii) village. Unexpectedly, the concentration of soil minerals previously thought to be associated with Podoconiosis was found to be negatively associated with the Podoconiosis prevalence (P<0.1). In the multivariable analyses, only frequency of wearing shoes and village turned out significant (P≤0.05). By modeling the different soil mineral concentrations and pH while adjusting for the variable frequency of wearing shoes, only iron concentration was significant and in the negative dimension (P≤0.05). However, controlling for Iron, Aluminum concentrations turned significant. CONCLUSION/SIGNIFICANCE: This study has pointed to a hitherto unreported occurrence of Podoconiosis cases and has contributed to the baseline knowledge on the occurrence of Podoconiosis in Kenya. Consistent with many studies, wearing shoes remain an important risk factor for the occurrence of the disease. However, our findings are inconsistent with some of the hitherto postulations that associate Podoconiosis prevalence with certain minerals in the soil in other regions in Africa. These findings provide new beginnings for the cross-disciplinary research of Podoconiosis in environmental health, socio-ecology and ecological niche and geo-spatial modeling and prediction.
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