Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Despite high-risk exposures, no evidence of zoonotic transmission during a canine outbreak of leptospirosis.

Abstract

Leptospirosis is a bacterial zoonosis that affects many mammals, including humans and dogs; dogs can transmit the bacteria to humans, but the frequency of transmission and highest risk exposures are poorly understood. During 2016-2017, the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, Arizona Department of Health Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigated the zoonotic potential of a canine leptospirosis outbreak in the Phoenix metro area. We identified symptomatic persons exposed to canine leptospirosis cases by conducting active and passive surveillance. We tested dog owners (n=9) and animal care providers (n=109) for serological evidence of Leptospira spp. infection (via the microscopic agglutination test [MAT]) and interviewed these persons about their specific exposures to canine cases and general exposures to canine blood and urine. Through surveillance, seven symptomatic persons were identified; six were tested and all were negative by MAT, and of these six, four persons were negative by PCR (two did not have PCR testing). All serosurvey participants (n=118) were also seronegative. Among animal care providers, bare skin contact with urine/blood from a canine case was reported by 23.2%; two persons reported dog urine splashing in their face. Veterinary technicians were more likely to have bare skin contact with blood from a canine case compared to veterinarians and boarding facility staff (p<0.001). Infection control practices were inconsistent; when working with specimens from a canine leptospirosis case, 44.6% of participants reported always wearing gloves when working with urine (i.e., collecting specimens), and 54.5% always wore gloves when working with blood. Veterinary technicians were also most likely to engage in all activities involving potential urine/blood contact, such as conducting laboratory tests (p<0.01). We therefore recommend that veterinary technicians specifically receive targeted education about infection control practices. Our results suggest that dog-to-human transmission of leptospirosis is uncommon.