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Impacts of an Urban Sanitation Intervention on Fecal Indicators and the Prevalence of Human Fecal Contamination in Mozambique


Holcomb, David A.; Knee, Jackie; Capone, Drew; Sumner, Trent; Adriano, Zaida; Nalá, Rassul; Cumming, Oliver; Brown, Joe; & Stewart, Jill R. (2021). Impacts of an Urban Sanitation Intervention on Fecal Indicators and the Prevalence of Human Fecal Contamination in Mozambique. Environmental Science & Technology, 55(17), 11667-11679. PMCID: PMC8429117


Fecal source tracking (FST) may be useful to assess pathways of fecal contamination in domestic environments and to estimate the impacts of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) interventions in low-income settings. We measured two nonspecific and two human-associated fecal indicators in water, soil, and surfaces before and after a shared latrine intervention from low-income households in Maputo, Mozambique, participating in the Maputo Sanitation (MapSan) trial. Up to a quarter of households were impacted by human fecal contamination, but trends were unaffected by improvements to shared sanitation facilities. The intervention reduced Escherichia coli gene concentrations in soil but did not impact culturable E. coli or the prevalence of human FST markers in a difference-in-differences analysis. Using a novel Bayesian hierarchical modeling approach to account for human marker diagnostic sensitivity and specificity, we revealed a high amount of uncertainty associated with human FST measurements and intervention effect estimates. The field of microbial source tracking would benefit from adding measures of diagnostic accuracy to better interpret findings, particularly when FST analyses convey insufficient information for robust inference. With improved measures, FST could help identify dominant pathways of human and animal fecal contamination in communities and guide the implementation of effective interventions to safeguard health.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Environmental Science & Technology


Holcomb, David A.
Knee, Jackie
Capone, Drew
Sumner, Trent
Adriano, Zaida
Nalá, Rassul
Cumming, Oliver
Brown, Joe
Stewart, Jill R.

Article Type




Data Set/Study

Maputo Sanitation (MapSan)




Stewart, J - 0000-0002-3474-5233