Wagner, T., M.E. Benbow, M. Burns, R.W. Merritt, J. Qi, P.L.C. Small, and R.C. Johnson. 2008. A landscape-based model for predicting Mycobacterium ulcerans infection (Buruli ulcer) presence in Benin, West Africa. EcoHealth 5:69-79.
Mycobacterium ulcerans infection (Buruli ulcer [BU] disease) is an emerging tropical disease that causes severe morbidity in many communities, especially those in close proximity to aquatic environments. Research and control efforts are severely hampered by the paucity of data regarding the ecology of this disease; for example, the vectors and modes of transmission remain unknown. It is hypothesized that BU presence is associated with altered landscapes that perturb aquatic ecosystems; however, this has yet to be quantified over large spatial scales. We quantified relationships between land use/land cover (LULC) characteristics surrounding individual villages and BU presence in Benin, West Africa. We also examined the effects of other village-level characteristics which we hypothesized to affect BU presence, such as village distance to the nearest river. We found that as the percent urban land use in a 50-km buffer surrounding a village increased, the probability of BU presence decreased. Conversely, as the percent agricultural land use in a 20-km buffer surrounding a village increased, the probability of BU presence increased. Landscape-based models had predictive ability when predicting BU presence using validation data sets from Benin and Ghana, West Africa. Our analyses suggest that relatively small amounts of urbanization are associated with a decrease in the probability of BU presence, and we hypothesize that this is due to the increased availability of pumped water in urban environments. Our models provide an initial approach to predicting the probability of BU presence over large spatial scales in Benin and Ghana, using readily available land use data.