Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

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leptospirosis

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Datasheet

leptospirosis

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 24 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Animal Disease
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • leptospirosis
  • Overview
  • Leptospires are motile bacteria with hook-shaped ends, and internal flagella. They can be found in aquatic environments and are sensitive to desiccation. They are Gram-negative, do not stain well, but can be visualized using dark-field microscop...

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    CAB International
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    OX10 8DE
    UK
    compend@cabi.org
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Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • leptospirosis

International Common Names

  • English: leptospirosis in cattle; leptospirosis in sheep and goats; leptospirosis in swine; redwater of calves

Overview

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Leptospires are motile bacteria with hook-shaped ends, and internal flagella. They can be found in aquatic environments and are sensitive to desiccation. They are Gram-negative, do not stain well, but can be visualized using dark-field microscopy. Leptospires in tissues can be detected by silver impregnation and immunological staining techniques. Leptospirosis can affect all domestic animals and humans, and can vary in severity from mild infections of the urinary or genital tract to serious systemic disease. They are usually excreted in urine. Leptospirosis is a serious zoonotic disease.

Leptospira has several pathogenic species, including Leptospira kirschneri, Leptospira interrogans, Leptospira noguchii, Leptospira borgpetersenii, Leptospira santarosai and Leptospira weilii. These species are divided into over 250 different serovars in 23 different serogroups. Serologically similar leptospires can belong to different species; for example, serovar hardjo belongs to two species interrogans and borgpetersenii, because common surface antigens are shared by the two species which are genetically separate.

Host Animals

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Animal nameContextLife stageSystem
Bos indicus (zebu)Domesticated host
Bos taurus (cattle)Domesticated host
Camelus dromedarius (dromedary camel)Domesticated host
Canis familiaris (dogs)Domesticated host
Capra hircus (goats)Domesticated host
Equus
Felis
Homo sapiensWild host
Lama glama (llamas)Domesticated host
Lama pacos (alpacas)Domesticated host
Ovis aries (sheep)Domesticated host
Phoca vitulina
Sus scrofa (pigs)Domesticated host

Hosts/Species Affected

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In maintenance hosts the disease is often mild or latent, and there is prolonged excretion of the leptospires in urine. Other species that become infected are termed incidental hosts. Incidental hosts are usually less susceptible to infection, develop more severe disease, and are less efficient transmitters of the leptospire to other hosts. The following table shows the maintenance and incidental hosts for serovars of Leptospira interrogans:


SerovarMaintenance hostsIncidental hosts
pomonapigs, cattlesheep, horses, dogs
icterohaemorrhagiaebrown rathumans, domestic animals
hardjocattlehumans
grippotyphosarodentscattle, pigs, horses, dogs
canicoladogspigs, cattle
bratislavapigs, hedgehogshorses, dogs

The main causes of leptospirosis in pigs and ruminants are the following serovars of L. interrogans:


SerovarHostsClinical signs
pomonacattle, sheepacute haemolytic disease in calves and lambs; abortion
"pigsreproductive failure; septicaemia in piglets
icterohaemorrhagiaecattle, sheep, pigsabortion; acute haemolytic disease in calves and lambs
grippotyphosacattle, pigsabortion; septicaemic disease in young animals
canicolapigsabortion/stillbirth; kidney disease in young pigs
bratislavapigsabortion, reproductive failure, stillbirth
tarassovipigsabortion, stillbirth, abortion
hardjo*cattle, sheepabortion, stillbirth, agalactiae, mastitis

* Serovar hardjo can be of Leptospira interrogans or Leptospira borgpetersenii. Some authors claim recently that Leptospira borgpetersenii serovar hardjo is the commonest cause of bovine leptospirosis, whereas earlier literature considers that Leptospira interrogans serovar hardjo is the commoner cause (Naiman et al., 2001).

Systems Affected

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reproductive diseases of large ruminants
reproductive diseases of pigs
reproductive diseases of small ruminants
urinary tract and renal diseases of large ruminants
urinary tract and renal diseases of pigs
urinary tract and renal diseases of small ruminants

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 10 Jan 2020
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes

Africa

BotswanaAbsent, No presence record(s)
Central African RepublicAbsent, No presence record(s)
ComorosAbsent, No presence record(s)
Congo, Democratic Republic of theAbsent, No presence record(s)
Congo, Republic of theAbsent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)
Côte d'IvoireAbsent, No presence record(s)
DjiboutiAbsent, No presence record(s)
EgyptAbsent, No presence record(s)
GabonPresent
GhanaAbsent, No presence record(s)
KenyaAbsent, No presence record(s)
LesothoAbsent, No presence record(s)
LibyaAbsent, No presence record(s)
MadagascarPresent
MalawiAbsent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)
MauritiusAbsent, No presence record(s)
MozambiqueAbsent, No presence record(s)
NamibiaAbsent, No presence record(s)
RéunionPresent
RwandaAbsent, No presence record(s)
SeychellesPresent
Sierra LeoneAbsent, No presence record(s)
South AfricaPresent
SudanAbsent, No presence record(s)
TogoAbsent, No presence record(s)
TunisiaAbsent, No presence record(s)
ZimbabweAbsent, No presence record(s)

Asia

ArmeniaAbsent, No presence record(s)
AzerbaijanAbsent, No presence record(s)
BahrainAbsent, No presence record(s)
BangladeshPresent
BhutanAbsent, No presence record(s)
IndiaPresent, Localized
IndonesiaPresent
IranPresent
IraqAbsent, No presence record(s)
IsraelPresent
JapanPresent
JordanAbsent, No presence record(s)
KazakhstanAbsent, No presence record(s)
KuwaitAbsent, No presence record(s)
KyrgyzstanPresent, Localized
LebanonAbsent, No presence record(s)
MalaysiaPresent
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresent, Serological evidence and/or isolation of the agent
-SarawakPresent, Serological evidence and/or isolation of the agent
MaldivesAbsent, No presence record(s)
MongoliaPresent
MyanmarPresent
NepalAbsent, No presence record(s)
North KoreaAbsent, No presence record(s)
OmanAbsent, No presence record(s)
PakistanPresent, Localized
Saudi ArabiaAbsent, No presence record(s)
SingaporeAbsent, No presence record(s)
South KoreaAbsent, No presence record(s)
Sri LankaPresent
SyriaAbsent, No presence record(s)
TajikistanAbsent, No presence record(s)
ThailandAbsent, No presence record(s)
United Arab EmiratesAbsent, No presence record(s)
VietnamPresent

Europe

AlbaniaAbsent, No presence record(s)
BelarusAbsent, No presence record(s)
BelgiumAbsent, No presence record(s)
Bosnia and HerzegovinaPresent
BulgariaAbsent, No presence record(s)
CroatiaPresent
CyprusAbsent, No presence record(s)
CzechiaAbsent, No presence record(s)
DenmarkPresent
EstoniaPresent
FinlandAbsent, No presence record(s)
GermanyPresent
GreecePresent, Localized
HungaryPresent
IcelandAbsent, No presence record(s)
Isle of ManPresent
ItalyPresent
JerseyPresent
LatviaAbsent, No presence record(s)
LiechtensteinAbsent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)
LithuaniaAbsent, No presence record(s)
LuxembourgAbsent, No presence record(s)
MaltaAbsent, No presence record(s)
MoldovaPresent
MontenegroAbsent, No presence record(s)
NetherlandsPresent
North MacedoniaPresent, Localized
NorwayAbsent, No presence record(s)
PolandAbsent, No presence record(s)
PortugalPresent
RomaniaPresent
RussiaPresent
SerbiaPresent
Serbia and MontenegroPresent
SlovakiaAbsent, No presence record(s)
SloveniaPresent
SpainPresent
SwedenPresent
SwitzerlandPresent
UkrainePresent
United KingdomPresent
-Northern IrelandPresent

North America

BarbadosPresent
BelizeAbsent, No presence record(s)
BermudaAbsent, No presence record(s)
CanadaPresent
Costa RicaPresent
CubaPresent
CuraçaoAbsent, No presence record(s)
DominicaPresent
Dominican RepublicPresent
El SalvadorPresent
GreenlandAbsent, No presence record(s)
GuadeloupePresent
GuatemalaPresent
HaitiAbsent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)
HondurasAbsent, No presence record(s)
JamaicaPresent
MartiniquePresent
MexicoPresent
NicaraguaPresent
PanamaAbsent, No presence record(s)
Saint Kitts and NevisPresent
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresent
United StatesPresent

Oceania

AustraliaPresent
French PolynesiaPresent
New CaledoniaPresent
New ZealandPresent
SamoaAbsent, No presence record(s)
VanuatuPresent, Serological evidence and/or isolation of the agent

South America

ArgentinaPresent
BoliviaAbsent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)
BrazilPresent
ChilePresent
ColombiaPresent
EcuadorPresent
Falkland IslandsAbsent, No presence record(s)
French GuianaAbsent, No presence record(s)
GuyanaPresent
ParaguayPresent
PeruAbsent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)
UruguayPresent
VenezuelaPresent

List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
Cardiovascular Signs / Tachycardia, rapid pulse, high heart rate Sign
Cardiovascular Signs / Tachycardia, rapid pulse, high heart rate Sign
Digestive Signs / Anorexia, loss or decreased appetite, not nursing, off feed Sign
Digestive Signs / Anorexia, loss or decreased appetite, not nursing, off feed Sign
Digestive Signs / Anorexia, loss or decreased appetite, not nursing, off feed Sign
Digestive Signs / Diarrhoea Sign
Digestive Signs / Rumen hypomotility or atony, decreased rate, motility, strength Sign
General Signs / Fever, pyrexia, hyperthermia Sign
General Signs / Fever, pyrexia, hyperthermia Sign
General Signs / Fever, pyrexia, hyperthermia Sign
General Signs / Icterus, jaundice Sign
General Signs / Icterus, jaundice Sign
General Signs / Icterus, jaundice Sign
General Signs / Pale mucous membranes or skin, anemia Sign
General Signs / Pale mucous membranes or skin, anemia Sign
General Signs / Petechiae or ecchymoses, bruises, ecchymosis Sign
General Signs / Reluctant to move, refusal to move Sign
General Signs / Sudden death, found dead Sign
General Signs / Sudden death, found dead Sign
General Signs / Underweight, poor condition, thin, emaciated, unthriftiness, ill thrift Sign
General Signs / Weight loss Sign
Nervous Signs / Dullness, depression, lethargy, depressed, lethargic, listless Sign
Nervous Signs / Dullness, depression, lethargy, depressed, lethargic, listless Sign
Nervous Signs / Dullness, depression, lethargy, depressed, lethargic, listless Sign
Nervous Signs / Seizures or syncope, convulsions, fits, collapse Sign
Pain / Discomfort Signs / Skin pain Sign
Reproductive Signs / Abortion or weak newborns, stillbirth Sign
Reproductive Signs / Abortion or weak newborns, stillbirth Sign
Reproductive Signs / Abortion or weak newborns, stillbirth Sign
Reproductive Signs / Agalactia, decreased, absent milk production Sign
Reproductive Signs / Agalactia, decreased, absent milk production Sign
Reproductive Signs / Bloody milk, red, pink, brown milk Sign
Reproductive Signs / Female infertility, repeat breeder Sign
Reproductive Signs / Mastitis, abnormal milk Sign
Reproductive Signs / Mummy, mummified fetus Sign
Reproductive Signs / Small litter size Sign
Respiratory Signs / Dyspnea, difficult, open mouth breathing, grunt, gasping Sign
Respiratory Signs / Dyspnea, difficult, open mouth breathing, grunt, gasping Sign
Respiratory Signs / Increased respiratory rate, polypnea, tachypnea, hyperpnea Sign
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Skin erythema, inflammation, redness Sign
Urinary Signs / Haematuria, blood in urine Sign
Urinary Signs / Haematuria, blood in urine Sign
Urinary Signs / Haemoglobinuria or myoglobinuria Sign
Urinary Signs / Haemoglobinuria or myoglobinuria Sign
Urinary Signs / Haemoglobinuria or myoglobinuria Sign
Urinary Signs / Red or brown urine, pink Sign
Urinary Signs / Red or brown urine, pink Sign
Urinary Signs / Red or brown urine, pink Sign

Disease Course

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Disease in Cattle

Acute leptospirosis is seen mainly in calves. They show signs of fever, anorexia, pass red urine, are jaundiced and many die within 3 to 5 days. Survivors are usually unthrifty for the rest of their lives. Decreased reproductive performance can also indicate the presence of leptospirosis. Leptospirosis can cause stillbirths and abortions in late pregnancy. A cow may show no signs of illness before or after the abortion or stillbirth. Leptospirosis can decrease a calf drop by 40% or more during a bad epidemic. Mastitis may also be caused by leptospirosis. Cows show signs of fever and depression and go off their feed. The udder is flaccid in all four quarters and milk yield decreases. Milk is yellowish and may contain red flecks but usually returns to normal in 4 to 5 days, full production being restored after 2 to 3 weeks. Within a herd where there are cases of acute leptospiral mastitis, a large number of cows will show no signs of disease, but will have a fall in milk production. Several weeks later these cows may then abort.

Cattle that recover may become carriers and shed the organism in their urine. The organism can colonize the kidneys and cause nephritis and lead to excretion of the bacteria in urine (Yener and Keles, 2001; for further discussion, see Epidemiology section).

Leptospira pomona and L. hardjo can cause localized renal infections in young animals, leading to diarrhoea, anaemia, haemoglobinuria and abortion.The kidneys are swollen, with multi-focal petechial and ecchymotic haemorrhages that become pale with time. The liver may be swollen, with minute areas of focal necrosis. Petechial haemorrhages in other organs are seen in fulminating cases, however, in the more prevalent Leptospirahardjo infections, the lesions are primarily restricted to the kidneys.

Disease in Pigs

Leptospirosis in pigs causes reproductive losses in breeding herds throughout the world. Losses are due to abortion, stillbirths, weak piglets, and reduced fertility. Pigs are maintenance hosts for serovars of the pomona, australis and tarassovi serogroups, while strains of serogroups canicola, icterohaemorrhagiae, and grippotyphosa are often incidental infections. The most important serovar in pigs is pomona, which is found worldwide. Other serovars found in pigs are tarrassovi, bratislava, canicola, copenhageni, and icterohaemorrhagiae.

Epidemiology

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Cattle that recover from leptospirosis may become carriers and shed the organism in their urine. The organism can colonize the kidneys and cause nephritis and lead to excretion of the bacteria in urine (Yener and Keles, 2001). Cattle can shed leptospirosis in the urine for over 12 months.

If the urine is passed into an environment favourable to the bacteria, for example into moist, shaded areas with moderate temperatures, the bacteria can survive for a number of weeks. Survival in the environment can also be extended if the bacterium is picked up by carrier animals (rats, wild pigs, bandicoots, etc.) which can then re-infect the herd with their urine. Leptospires are able to penetrate the membranes of the mouth, nose, eyes and broken skin. Muddy areas around water troughs, water holes and dams are sites of infection. Pigs can act as long-term carriers of serovars pomona and tarassovi. Therefore leptospirosis is more likely on mixed dairy-pig properties or when feral pigs are present. As well as transmission via urine, sexual transmission is an important source of infection (Heinemann et al., 2000).

Zoonoses and Food Safety

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Leptospirosis presents an important zoonotic risk to people working closely with pigs.

Disease Treatment

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Treatment includes antibiotic therapy. Administration of streptomycin, chlortetracycline or oxytetracycline in the early stages of infection reduces the number of leptospires in the tissues and the amount of excreted organisms.

Prevention and Control

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It is possible to eradicate leptospirosis from infected farms by a combination of vaccination, diagnostic tests, drugs and improved hygiene and biosecurity. The greatest threat to eradication schemes is the introduction of infected animals and contact with infected rodents or wild animals (including contact with feral pigs). Vaccination against leptospirosis is common in pigs and cattle. Most vaccines are formalin inactivated, and contain one or more serovars, with aluminium hydroxide adjuvant. Pregnant cows should be vaccinated promptly with killed vaccine. All cattle aged more than 6 months should be vaccinated, with a booster, after 4 weeks. Cows should have an annual booster at mid-pregnancy or at drying off. A monovalent vaccine against Leptospira borgpetersenii serovar hardjo can prevent it colonising the kidneys and greatly reduce excretion of the bacteria (Bolin and Alt, 2001).

For pig farms, control depends on combined use of antibiotic therapy, vaccination, and husbandry (including strict biosecurity with rodent control). Outbreaks should be controlled with streptomycin at 25 mg/kg, and vaccination of at-risk stock, followed by a vaccination programme. If vaccination is not possible, a programme of medicated feed (chlortetracycline or oxytetracycline 600-800g/ton of feed) fed continuously or 'one month on one month off', can be used (Ellis, 1999)

References

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African Union-Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources, 2011. Panafrican Animal Health Yearbook 2011. Pan African Animal Health Yearbook, 2011:xiii + 90 pp. http://www.au-ibar.org/index.php?option=com_flexicontent&view=items&cid=71&id=109&Itemid=56&lang=en

Bolin CA, Alt DP, 2001. Use of a monovalent leptospiral vaccine to prevent renal colonization and urinary shedding in cattle exposed to Leptospira borgpetersenii serovar hardjo. American Journal of Veterinary Research, 62(7):995-1000; 38 ref.

Ellis WA, 1999. Leptospirosis. In: Diseases of swine, 8th edition. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Science, 483-354.

Heinemann MB, Garcia JF, Nunes CM, Gregori F, Higa ZMM, Vasconcellos SA, Richtzenhain LJ, 2000. Detection and differentiation of Leptospira spp. serovars in bovine semen by polymerase chain reaction and restriction fragment length polymorphism. Veterinary Microbiology, 73(4):261-267; 15 ref.

Naiman BM, Alt D, Bolin CA, Zuerner R, Baldwin CL, 2001. Protective killed Leptospira borgpetersenii vaccine induces potent Th1 immunity comprising responses by CD4 and gammadelta T lymphocytes. Infection and Immunity, 69(12):7550-7558.

OIE Handistatus, 2002. World Animal Health Publication and Handistatus II (dataset for 2001). Paris, France: Office International des Epizooties.

OIE Handistatus, 2003. World Animal Health Publication and Handistatus II (dataset for 2002). Paris, France: Office International des Epizooties.

OIE Handistatus, 2004. World Animal Health Publication and Handistatus II (data set for 2003). Paris, France: Office International des Epizooties.

OIE Handistatus, 2005. World Animal Health Publication and Handistatus II (data set for 2004). Paris, France: Office International des Epizooties.

OIE, 2009. World Animal Health Information Database - Version: 1.4. World Animal Health Information Database. Paris, France: World Organisation for Animal Health. http://www.oie.int

OIE, 2012. World Animal Health Information Database. Version 2. World Animal Health Information Database. Paris, France: World Organisation for Animal Health. http://www.oie.int/wahis_2/public/wahid.php/Wahidhome/Home

Radostits OM, Blood DC, Gay CC, 1994. Diseases caused by Leptospira. In: Veterinary Medicine: a textbook of the diseases of cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and horses. London, UK: Bailliere Tindall, 884-898.

Yener Z, Keles H, 2001. Immunoperoxidase and histopathological examinations of leptospiral nephritis in cattle. Journal of Veterinary Medicine A, Physiology Pathology Clinical Medicine, 48(7):441-447.

Zaki SR, Shieh WJ, 1996. .

Distribution References

OIE Handistatus, 2005. World Animal Health Publication and Handistatus II (dataset for 2004)., Paris, France: Office International des Epizooties.

OIE, 2009. World Animal Health Information Database - Version: 1.4., Paris, France: World Organisation for Animal Health. https://www.oie.int/

OIE, 2012. World Animal Health Information Database. Version 2., Paris, France: World Organisation for Animal Health. https://www.oie.int/wahis_2/public/wahid.php/Wahidhome/Home

Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
CFSPH – Fast factsheethttp://www.cfsph.iastate.edu/FastFacts/pdfs/leptospirosis_F.pdf
CFSPH – Technical factsheethttp://www.cfsph.iastate.edu/Factsheets/pdfs/leptospirosis.pdf
CFSPH: Animal Disease Informationhttp://www.cfsph.iastate.edu/DiseaseInfo/index.php"Animal Disease Information" provides links to various information sources, including fact sheets and images, on over 150 animal diseases of international significance.
Leptospirosis – CDC information pagehttp://www.cdc.gov/leptospirosis/
Leptospirosis – OIE Manualhttp://www.oie.int/fileadmin/Home/eng/Health_standards/tahm/2.01.09_LEPTO.pdf
Leptospirosis – wetlands information factsheethttp://www.wwt.org.uk/uploads/documents/1341561607_RWDM4DiseaseFactsheetsLeptospirosis.pdf
Leptospirosis – WHO information pagehttp://www.who.int/zoonoses/institutions/Leptospirosis/en/index.html
Leptospirosis in Cattle – FAO Reporthttp://www.fao.org/prods/gap/database/gap/files/1358_LEPTO.PDF
OIE Manual of Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animalshttp://www.oie.int/en/international-standard-setting/terrestrial-manual/access-online/The Manual of Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animals (Terrestrial Manual) aims to facilitate international trade in animals and animal products and to contribute to the improvement of animal health services world-wide. The principal target readership is laboratories carrying out veterinary diagnostic tests and surveillance, plus vaccine manufacturers and regulatory authorities in Member Countries. The objective is to provide internationally agreed diagnostic laboratory methods and requirements for the production and control of vaccines and other biological products.

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