Open Access Open Badges Research article

Geographic determinants of reported human Campylobacter infections in Scotland

Paul R Bessell1*, Louise Matthews1, Alison Smith-Palmer2, Ovidiu Rotariu3, Norval JC Strachan3, Ken J Forbes4, John M Cowden2, Stuart WJ Reid1 and Giles T Innocent1

Author Affiliations

1 Boyd Orr Centre for Population and Ecosystem Health, Institute of Comparative Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Glasgow, Bearsden Road, Glasgow, G61 1QH, UK

2 Gastrointestinal Disease and Zoonoses, Health Protection Scotland, Clifton House, Clifton Place, Glasgow, G3 7LN, UK

3 School of Biological Sciences, Cruickshank Building, St. Machar Drive, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, AB24 3UU, UK

4 Section of Immunology and Infection, Medical School, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill, Aberdeen, AB25 2ZD, UK

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:423  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-423

Published: 15 July 2010



Campylobacteriosis is the leading cause of bacterial gastroenteritis in most developed countries. People are exposed to infection from contaminated food and environmental sources. However, the translation of these exposures into infection in the human population remains incompletely understood. This relationship is further complicated by differences in the presentation of cases, their investigation, identification, and reporting; thus, the actual differences in risk must be considered alongside the artefactual differences.


Data on 33,967 confirmed Campylobacter infections in mainland Scotland between 2000 and 2006 (inclusive) that were spatially referenced to the postcode sector level were analysed. Risk factors including the Carstairs index of social deprivation, the easting and northing of the centroid of the postcode sector, measures of livestock density by species and population density were tested in univariate screening using a non-spatial generalised linear model. The NHS Health Board of the case was included as a random effect in this final model. Subsequently, a spatial generalised linear mixed model (GLMM) was constructed and age-stratified sensitivity analysis was conducted on this model.


The spatial GLMM included the protective effects of the Carstairs index (relative risk (RR) = 0.965, 95% Confidence intervals (CIs) = 0.959, 0.971) and population density (RR = 0.945, 95% CIs = 0.916, 0.974. Following stratification by age group, population density had a significant protective effect (RR = 0.745, 95% CIs = 0.700, 0.792) for those under 15 but not for those aged 15 and older (RR = 0.982, 95% CIs = 0.951, 1.014). Once these predictors have been taken into account three NHS Health Boards remain at significantly greater risk (Grampian, Highland and Tayside) and two at significantly lower risk (Argyll and Ayrshire and Arran).


The less deprived and children living in rural areas are at the greatest risk of being reported as a case of Campylobacter infection. However, this analysis cannot differentiate between actual risk and heterogeneities in individual reporting behaviour; nevertheless this paper has demonstrated that it is possible to explain the pattern of reported Campylobacter infections using both social and environmental predictors.