A randomized, controlled trial of in-home drinking water intervention to reduce gastrointestinal illness

John M. Colford, Timothy J. Wade, Sukhminder K. Sandhu, Catherine C. Wright, Sherline Lee, Susan Shaw, Kim Fox, Susan Burns, Anne Benker, M. Alan Brookhart, Mark Van Der Laan, Deborah A. Levy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Trials have provided conflicting estimates of the risk of gastrointestinal illness attributable to tap water. To estimate this risk in an Iowa community with a well-run water utility with microbiologically challenged source water, the authors of this 2000-2002 study randomly assigned blinded volunteers to use externally identical devices (active device: 227 households with 646 persons; sham device: 229 households with 650 persons) for 6 months (cycle A). Each group then switched to the opposite device for 6 months (cycle B). The active device contained a 1-μm absolute ceramic filter and used ultraviolet light. Episodes of "highly credible gastrointestinal illness," a published measure of diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps, were recorded. Water usage was recorded with personal diaries and an electronic totalizer. The numbers of episodes in cycle A among the active and sham device groups were 707 and 672, respectively; in cycle B, the numbers of episodes were 516 and 476, respectively. In a log-linear generalized estimating equations model using intention-to-treat analysis, the relative rate of highly credible gastrointestinal illness (sham vs. active) for the entire trial was 0.98 (95% confidence interval: 0.86, 1.10). No reduction in gastrointestinal illness was detected after in-home use of a device designed to be highly effective in removing microorganisms from water.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)472-482
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Drinking
  • Epidemiologic studies
  • Gastrointestinal diseases
  • Intervention studies
  • Randomized controlled trials
  • Water
  • Water supply

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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