Non-communicable diseases, infection and survival in a retrospective cohort of Indigenous and non-Indigenous adults in Central Australia

Lloyd Einsiedel, Liselle Fernandes, Sheela Joseph, Alex Brown, Richard Woodman

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    Objectives: We hypothesise that rising prevalence rates of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) increase infection risk and worsen outcomes among socially disadvantaged Indigenous Australians undergoing a rapid epidemiological transition. Design: Available pathology, imaging and discharge morbidity codes were retrospectively reviewed for a period of 5 years prior to admission with a bloodstream infection (BSI), 1 January 2003 to 30 June 2007. Participants: 558 Indigenous and 55 non-Indigenous community residents of central Australia. Outcome measures: The effects of NCDs on risk of infection and death were determined after stratifying by ethnicity. Results: The mean annual BSI incidence rates were far higher among Indigenous residents (Indigenous, 937/100 000; non-Indigenous, 64/100 000 personyears; IRR=14.6; 95% CI 14.61 to 14.65, p<0.001). Indigenous patients were also more likely to have previous bacterial infections (68.7% vs 34.6%; respectively, p<0.001), diabetes (44.3% vs 20%; p<0.001), harmful alcohol consumption (37% vs 12.7%; p<0.001) and other communicable diseases (human T-lymphotropic virus type 1, 45.2%; strongyloidiasis, 36.1%; hepatitis B virus, 12.9%). Among Indigenous patients, diabetes increased the odds of current Staphylococcus aureus BSI (OR=1.6, 95% CI 1.0 to 2.5) and prior skin infections (adjusted OR=2.1, 95% CI 1.4 to 3.3). Harmful alcohol consumption increased the odds of current Streptococcus pneumoniae BSI (OR=1.57, 95% CI 1.02 to 2.40) and of previous BSI (OR=1.7, 95% CI 1.1 to 2.5), skin infection (OR=1.7, 95% CI 1.1 to 2.6) or pneumonia (OR=4.3, 95% CI 2.8 to 6.7). Twenty-six per cent of Indigenous patients died at a mean (SD) age of 47±15 years. Complications of diabetes and harmful alcohol consumption predicted 28-day mortality (non-rheumatic heart disease, HR=2.9; 95% CI 1.4 to 6.2; chronic renal failure, HR=2.6, 95%CI 1.0 to 6.5; chronic liver disease, HR=3.3, 95% CI 1.6 to 6.7). Conclusions: In a socially disadvantaged population undergoing a rapid epidemiological transition, NCDs are associated with an increased risk of infection and BSI-related mortality. Complex interactions between communicable diseases and NCDs demand an integrated approach to management, which must include the empowerment of affected populations to promote behavioural change.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere003070
    Pages (from-to)e003070
    Number of pages11
    JournalBMJ Open
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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