Assessing the performance of remotely-sensed flooding indicators and their potential contribution to early warning for leptospirosis in Cambodia

<div><p>Remote sensing can contribute to early warning for diseases with environmental drivers, such as flooding for leptospirosis. In this study we assessed whether and which remotely-sensed flooding indicator could be used in Cambodia to study any disease for which flooding has already been identified as an important driver, using leptospirosis as a case study. The performance of six potential flooding indicators was assessed by ground truthing. The Modified Normalized Difference Water Index (MNDWI) was used to estimate the Risk Ratio (RR) of being infected by leptospirosis when exposed to floods it detected, in particular during the rainy season. Chi-square tests were also calculated. Another variable—the time elapsed since the first flooding of the year—was created using MNDWI values and was also included as explanatory variable in a generalized linear model (GLM) and in a boosted regression tree model (BRT) of leptospirosis infections, along with other explanatory variables. Interestingly, MNDWI thresholds for both detecting water and predicting the risk of leptospirosis seroconversion were independently evaluated at -0.3. Value of MNDWI greater than -0.3 was significantly related to leptospirosis infection (RR = 1.61 [1.10–1.52]; χ2 = 5.64, p-value = 0.02, especially during the rainy season (RR = 2.03 [1.25–3.28]; χ2 = 8.15, p-value = 0.004). Time since the first flooding of the year was a significant risk factor in our GLM model (p-value = 0.042). These results suggest that MNDWI may be useful as a risk indicator in an early warning remote sensing tool for flood-driven diseases like leptospirosis in South East Asia.</p></div>