Risk Perceptions and Behaviors Related to the Transmission of Leptospirosis among Urban Slum Residents in Salvador, Brazil


During the summer of 2013, Josh spent three months researching sources of infection risk and risk perceptions in the underserved urban slums of Salvador, Brazil. By working with the Brazilian Ministry of Health on a case study in the Pau da Lima community, Josh studied the Leptospira bacteria weaving its deadly trail through the open sewers. Leptospira is a pathogenic bacteria that serves as the causative agent for the life-threatening illness leptospirosis, one of many overlooked infectious diseases. This epidemiological fieldwork was an ideal compliment to his in vitro analyses of the biological mechanisms of Leptospira pathogenesis, studies that he has pursued in the laboratory setting. In Pau da Lima, Josh worked with a team to map and characterize environmental sources of infection risk, such as the open sewer system. He also created a cross-sectional survey that was administered to over 3,500 members of the community to describe the gradient of risk sources affecting residents. The results of this survey will be analyzed to evaluate the association between socioeconomic status, proximity to environmental hazards, and the behavioral determinants of infection.