Application of a QMRA Framework to Inform Selection of Drinking Water Interventions in the Developing Context

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Abstract

The aim of this study was to develop a modified quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) framework that could be applied as a decision support tool to choose between alternative drinking water interventions in the developing context. The impact of different household water treatment (HWT) interventions on the overall incidence of diarrheal disease and disability adjusted life years (DALYs) was estimated, without relying on source water pathogen concentration as the starting point for the analysis. A framework was developed and a software tool constructed and then implemented for an illustrative case study for Nepal based on published scientific data. Coagulation combined with free chlorine disinfection provided the greatest estimated health gains in the short term; however, when long-term compliance was incorporated into the calculations, the preferred intervention was porous ceramic filtration. The model demonstrates how the QMRA framework can be used to integrate evidence from different studies to inform management decisions, and in particular to prioritize the next best intervention with respect to estimated reduction in diarrheal incidence. This study only considered HWT interventions; it is recognized that a systematic consideration of sanitation, recreation, and drinking water pathways is important for effective management of waterborne transmission of pathogens, and the approach could be expanded to consider the broader water-related context.

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