Volume 96, Issue 6
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645



Podoconiosis, a noninfectious elephantiasis, is a disabling neglected tropical disease. In August 2015, an elephantiasis case-cluster was reported in Kamwenge District, western Uganda. We investigated to identify the disease's nature and risk factors. We defined a suspected podoconiosis case as onset in a Kamwenge resident of bilateral asymmetrical lower limb swelling lasting ≥ 1 month, plus ≥ 1 of the following associated symptoms: skin itching, burning sensation, plantar edema, lymph ooze, prominent skin markings, rigid toes, or mossy papillomata. A probable case was a suspected case with negative microfilaria antigen immunochromatographic card test (ruling out filarial elephantiasis). We conducted active case-finding. In a case–control investigation, we tested the hypothesis that the disease was caused by prolonged foot skin exposure to irritant soils, using 40 probable case-persons and 80 asymptomatic village control-persons, individually matched by age and sex. We collected soil samples to characterize irritants. We identified 52 suspected (including 40 probable) cases with onset from 1980 to 2015. Prevalence rates increased with age; annual incidence (by reported onset of disease) was stable over time at 2.9/100,000. We found that 93% (37/40) of cases and 68% (54/80) of controls never wore shoes at work (Mantel–Haenszel odds ratio [OR] = 7.7; 95% [confidence interval] CI = 2.0–30); 80% (32/40) of cases and 49% (39/80) of controls never wore shoes at home (OR = 5.2; 95% CI = 1.8–15); and 70% (27/39) of cases and 44% (35/79) of controls washed feet at day end (versus immediately after work) (OR = 11; 95% CI = 2.1–56). Soil samples were characterized as rich black-red volcanic clays. In conclusion, this reported elephantiasis is podoconiosis associated with prolonged foot exposure to volcanic soil. We recommended foot hygiene and universal use of protective shoes.


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  • Received : 28 Nov 2016
  • Accepted : 19 Feb 2017
  • Published online : 10 Apr 2017

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