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Effects of Single and Combined Water, Sanitation and Handwashing Interventions on Fecal Contamination in the Domestic Environment: A Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial in Rural Bangladesh.

  • Author(s): Ercumen, Ayse
  • Mertens, Andrew
  • Arnold, Benjamin F
  • Benjamin-Chung, Jade
  • Hubbard, Alan E
  • Ahmed, Mir Alvee
  • Kabir, Mir Himayet
  • Rahman Khalil, Md Masudur
  • Kumar, Ashish
  • Rahman, Md Sajjadur
  • Parvez, Sarker Masud
  • Unicomb, Leanne
  • Rahman, Mahbubur
  • Ram, Pavani K
  • Clasen, Thomas
  • Luby, Stephen P
  • Colford, John M
  • et al.

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Water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions have varying effectiveness in reducing fecal contamination in the domestic environment; delivering them in combination could yield synergies. We conducted environmental assessments within a randomized controlled trial in Bangladesh that implemented single and combined water treatment, sanitation, handwashing (WSH) and nutrition interventions (WASH Benefits, NCT01590095). After one and two years of intervention, we quantified fecal indicator bacteria in samples of drinking water (from source or storage), child hands, children's food and sentinel objects. In households receiving single water treatment interventions, Escherichia coli prevalence in stored drinking water was reduced by 50% and concentration by 1-log. E. coli prevalence in food was reduced by 30% and concentration by 0.5-log in households receiving single water treatment and handwashing interventions. Combined WSH did not reduce fecal contamination more effectively than its components. Interventions did not reduce E. coli in groundwater, on child hands and on objects. These findings suggest that WSH improvements reduced contamination along the direct transmission pathways of stored water and food but not along indirect upstream pathways. Our findings support implementing water treatment and handwashing to reduce fecal exposure through water and food but provide no evidence that combining interventions further reduces exposure.

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