Use of geographically weighted logistic regression to quantify spatial variation in the environmental and sociodemographic drivers of leptospirosis in Fiji: a modelling study

14 May 2018
Mayfield HJ, Lowry JH, Watson CH, Kama M, Nilles EJ, Lau CL

BACKGROUND: Leptospirosis is a globally important zoonotic disease, with complex exposure pathways that depend on interactions between human beings, animals, and the environment. Major drivers of outbreaks include flooding, urbanisation, poverty, and agricultural intensification. The intensity of these drivers and their relative importance vary between geographical areas; however, non-spatial regression methods are incapable of capturing the spatial variations. This study aimed to explore the use of geographically weighted logistic regression (GWLR) to provide insights into the ecoepidemiology of human leptospirosis in Fiji.

METHODS: We obtained field data from a cross-sectional community survey done in 2013 in the three main islands of Fiji. A blood sample obtained from each participant (aged 1-90 years) was tested for anti-Leptospira antibodies and household locations were recorded using GPS receivers. We used GWLR to quantify the spatial variation in the relative importance of five environmental and sociodemographic covariates (cattle density, distance to river, poverty rate, residential setting [urban or rural], and maximum rainfall in the wettest month) on leptospirosis transmission in Fiji. We developed two models, one using GWLR and one with standard logistic regression; for each model, the dependent variable was the presence or absence of anti-Leptospira antibodies. GWLR results were compared with results obtained with standard logistic regression, and used to produce a predictive risk map and maps showing the spatial variation in odds ratios (OR) for each covariate.

FINDINGS: The dataset contained location information for 2046 participants from 1922 households representing 81 communities. The Aikaike information criterion value of the GWLR model was 1935·2 compared with 1254·2 for the standard logistic regression model, indicating that the GWLR model was more efficient. Both models produced similar OR for the covariates, but GWLR also detected spatial variation in the effect of each covariate. Maximum rainfall had the least variation across space (median OR 1·30, IQR 1·27-1·35), and distance to river varied the most (1·45, 1·35-2·05). The predictive risk map indicated that the highest risk was in the interior of Viti Levu, and the agricultural region and southern end of Vanua Levu.

INTERPRETATION: GWLR provided a valuable method for modelling spatial heterogeneity of covariates for leptospirosis infection and their relative importance over space. Results of GWLR could be used to inform more place-specific interventions, particularly for diseases with strong environmental or sociodemographic drivers of transmission.