Analytical studies assessing the association between extreme precipitation or temperature and drinking water-related waterborne infections: A review

Bernardo R. Guzman Herrador*, Birgitte Freiesleben De Blasio, Emily MacDonald, Gordon Nichols, Bertrand Sudre, Line Vold, Jan C. Semenza, Karin Nygård

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


Determining the role of weather in waterborne infections is a priority public health research issue as climate change is predicted to increase the frequency of extreme precipitation and temperature events. To document the current knowledge on this topic, we performed a literature review of analytical research studies that have combined epidemiological and meteorological data in order to analyze associations between extreme precipitation or temperature and waterborne disease. A search of the databases Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, SCOPUS and Web of Science was conducted, using search terms related to waterborne infections and precipitation or temperature. Results were limited to studies published in English between January 2001 and December 2013. Twenty-four articles were included in this review, predominantly from Asia and North-America. Four articles used waterborne outbreaks as study units, while the remaining articles used number of cases of waterborne infections. Results presented in the different articles were heterogeneous. Although most of the studies identified a positive association between increased precipitation or temperature and infection, there were several in which this association was not evidenced. A number of articles also identified an association between decreased precipitation and infections. This highlights the complex relationship between precipitation or temperature driven transmission and waterborne disease. We encourage researchers to conduct studies examining potential effect modifiers, such as the specific type of microorganism, geographical region, season, type of water supply, water source or water treatment, in order to assess how they modulate the relationship between heavy rain events or temperature and waterborne disease. Addressing these gaps is of primary importance in order to identify the areas where action is needed to minimize negative impact of climate change on health in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Article number29
JournalEnvironmental Health: A Global Access Science Source
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Guzman Herrador et al.; licensee BioMed Central.


  • Precipitation
  • Rainfall
  • Review
  • Temperature
  • Waterborne infection


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