Methodological choices in brucellosis burden of disease assessments: A systematic review

Carlotta Di Bari, Narmada Venkateswaran, Mieghan Bruce, Christina Fastl, Ben Huntington, Grace Patterson, Jonathan Rushton, Paul Torgerson, David Pigott and Brecht Devleesschauwer have had the following publication which you can read the abstract below. For the full published version, please click here. This has been published in the European Journal of Public Health, Volume 32 in October 2022.


Background Foodborne and zoonotic diseases such as brucellosis present many challenges to public health and economic welfare. Increasingly, researchers and public health institutes use disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) to generate a comprehensive comparison of the population health impact of these conditions. DALYs calculations, however, entail a number of methodological choices and assumptions, with data gaps and uncertainties to accommodate. The following review identifies existing brucellosis burden studies and analyzes their methodological choices, assumptions, and uncertainties. The review supports the Global Burden of Animal Diseases programme in the development of a systematic methodology to describe the impact of animal diseases on society, including human health.

Methods / Principal findings A systematic search for brucellosis burden calculations was conducted in pre-selected international and grey literature databases. Using a standardized reporting framework, we evaluated each estimate on a variety of key methodological assumptions necessary to compute a DALY. Thirteen studies satisfied the inclusion criteria (human brucellosis and quantification of DALYs). One study reported estimates at the global level, the rest were national or subnational assessments. Data regarding different methodological choices were extracted, including detailed assessments of the adopted disease models. Most studies retrieved brucellosis epidemiological data from administrative registries. Incidence data were often estimated on the basis of laboratory-confirmed tests. Not all studies included mortality estimates (Years of Life Lost) in their assessments due to lack of data or the assumption that brucellosis is not a fatal disease. Only two studies used a model with variable health states and corresponding disability weights. The rest used a simplified singular health state approach. Wide variation was seen in the duration chosen for brucellosis, ranging from 2 weeks to 4.5 years, irrespective of the whether a chronic state was included.

Conclusion Available brucellosis burden assessments vary widely in their methodology and assumptions. Further research is needed to better characterize the clinical course of brucellosis and to estimate case-fatality rates. Additionally, reporting of methodological choices should be improved to enhance transparency and comparability of estimates. These steps will increase the value of these estimates for policy makers.

Author Summary Brucellosis is a bacterial disease transmitted to humans by consumption of contaminated, unpasteurized milk or through direct contact with infected animals and their excretions. This disease causes production losses and has major economic impacts on individuals and communities. The disability-adjusted life year (DALY) is a metric for measuring the burden. It summarizes mortality (years of life lost) and morbidity (years lived with disability) into a single metric. This review aimed to identify existing brucellosis burden studies and analyse their methodological choices, assumptions, and uncertainties. The results suggested that some parameters carry considerable uncertainty, particularly mortality and disease duration. This highlights the importance of strengthening routine reporting systems, collecting better mortality data and conducting further research on the course of brucellosis. Additionally, estimates of DALYs will benefit from a deeper understanding of the symptoms and the different sources of attribution. Finally, current reporting of methodological choices should be improved to enhance transparency, comparability, and consistency of brucellosis burden.

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