Geographical distribution and prevalence of podoconiosis in Rwanda: a cross-sectional country-wide survey
Background: Podoconiosis is a type of tropical lymphoedema that causes massive swelling of the lower limbs. The disease is associated with both economic insecurity, due to long-term morbidity-related loss of productivity, and intense social stigma. Reliable and detailed data on the prevalence and distribution of podoconiosis are scarce. We aimed to fill this data gap by doing a nationwide community-based study to estimate the number of cases throughout Rwanda.
Methods: We did a population-based cross-sectional survey to determine the national prevalence of podoconiosis. A podoconiosis case was defined as a person with bilateral, asymmetrical lymphoedema of the lower limb present for more than 1 year, who tested negative for Wuchereria bancrofti antigen (determined by Filariasis Test Strip) and specific IgG4 (determined by Wb123 test), and had a history of any of the associated clinical signs and symptoms. All adults (aged ≥15 years) who resided in any of the 30 districts of Rwanda for 10 or more years were invited at the household level to participate. Participants were interviewed and given a physical examination before Filariasis Test Strip and Wb123 testing. We fitted a binomial mixed model combining the site-level podoconiosis prevalence with continuous environmental covariates to estimate prevalence at unsampled locations. We report estimates of cases by district combining our mean predicted prevalence and a contemporary gridded map of estimated population density.
Findings: Between June 12, and July 28, 2017, 1 360 612 individuals—719 730 (53%) women and 640 882 (47%) men—were screened from 80 clusters in 30 districts across Rwanda. 1143 individuals with lymphoedema were identified, of whom 914 (80%) had confirmed podoconiosis, based on the standardised diagnostic algorithm. The overall prevalence of podoconiosis was 68·5 per 100 000 people (95% CI 41·0–109·7). Podoconiosis was found to be widespread in Rwanda. District-level prevalence ranged from 28·3 per 100 000 people (16·8–45·5, Nyarugenge, Kigali province) to 119·2 per 100 000 people (59·9–216·2, Nyamasheke, West province). Prevalence was highest in districts in the North and West provinces: Nyamasheke, Rusizi, Musanze, Nyabihu, Nyaruguru, Burera, and Rubavu. We estimate that 6429 (95% CI 3938–10 088) people live with podoconiosis across Rwanda.
Interpretation: Despite relatively low prevalence, podoconiosis is widely distributed geographically throughout Rwanda. Many patients are likely to be undiagnosed and morbidity management is scarce. Targeted interventions through a well coordinated health system response are needed to manage those affected. Our findings should inform national level planning, monitoring, and implementation of interventions.