Significance of major international seaports in the distribution of murine typhus in Taiwan

Chi Chien Kuo*, Nicola Wardrop, Chung Te Chang, Hsi Chieh Wang, Peter M. Atkinson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Background: International seaports are hotspots for disease invasion and pathogens can persist in seaports even after ports are abandoned. Transmitted by fleas infected by Rickettsia typhi, murine typhus, a largely neglected and easily misdiagnosed disease, is known to occur primarily in large seaports. However, the significance of seaports in the occurrence of murine typhus has never been validated quantitatively. Methodology/Principal findings: We studied the spatial distribution of murine typhus, a notifiable disease, in Taiwan. We investigated whether risk of infection was correlated with distance to international seaports and a collection of environmental and socioeconomic factors, using a Bayesian negative binomial conditionally autoregressive model, followed with geographically weighted regression. Seaports that are currently in use and those that operated in the 19thcentury for trade with China, but were later abandoned due to siltation were analyzed. A total of 476 human cases of murine typhus were reported during 2000–2014 in the main island of Taiwan, with spatial clustering in districts in southwest and central-west Taiwan. A higher incidence rate (case/population) was associated with a smaller distance to currently in-use international seaports and lower rainfall and temperature, but was uncorrelated with distance to abandoned ports. Geographically weighted regression revealed a geographic heterogeneity in the importance of distance to in-use seaports near the four international seaports of Taiwan. Conclusions/Significance: Our study suggests that murine typhus is associated with international seaports, especially for those with large trading volume. Thus, one of the costs of global trade in Taiwan might be elevated risks of murine typhus. Globalization has accelerated the spread of infectious diseases, but the burden of disease varies geographically, with regions surrounding major international seaports warranting particular surveillance.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0005430
JournalPLoS neglected tropical diseases
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Mar 6

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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