Endemic Gastrointestinal Illness Study Equivocal

If I’m reading this correctly the odds ratios are so close to 1 that there is essentially no difference within the limits of this study design and available data, which is contrary to the author’s conclusion.

Tornevi A, Simonsson M, Forsberg B, Säve-Söderbergh M, Toljander J. Efficacy of water treatment processes and endemic gastrointestinal illness – A multi-city study in Sweden. Water Research 2016 Jun 11;102:263-270. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2016.06.018.

Outbreaks of acute gastrointestinal illnesses (AGI) have been linked to insufficient drinking water treatment on numerous occasions in the industrialized world, but it is largely unknown to what extent public drinking water influences the endemic level of AGI. This paper aimed to examine endemic AGI and the relationship with pathogen elimination efficacy in public drinking water treatment processes. For this reason, time series data of all telephone calls to the Swedish National Healthcare Guide between November 2007 and February 2014 from twenty Swedish cities were obtained. Calls concerning vomiting, diarrhea or abdominal pain (AGI calls) were separated from other concerns (non-AGI calls). Information on which type of microbial barriers each drinking water treatment plant in these cities have been used were obtained, together with the barriers’ theoretical pathogen log reduction efficacy. The total log reduction in the drinking water plants varied between 0.0 and 6.1 units for viruses, 0.0-14.6 units for bacteria and 0.0-7.3 units regarding protozoans. To achieve one general efficacy parameter for each plant, a weighted mean value of the log reductions (WLR) was calculated, with the weights based on how commonly these pathogen groups cause AGI. The WLR in the plants varied between 0.0 and 6.4 units. The effect of different pathogen elimination efficacy on levels of AGI calls relative non-AGI calls was evaluated in regression models, controlling for long term trends, population size, age distribution, and climatological area. Populations receiving drinking water produced with higher total log reduction was associated with a lower relative number of AGI calls. In overall, AGI calls decreased by 4% (OR = 0.96, CI: 0.96-0.97) for each unit increase in the WLR. The findings apply to both groundwater and surface water study sites, but are particularly evident among surface water sites during seasons when viruses are the main cause of AGI. This study proposes that the endemic level of gastroenteritis can indeed be reduced with more advanced treatment processes at many municipal drinking water treatment plants.

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