Leptospirosis is a zoonosis, that is, it is a disease that is transmitted from animals to humans (person-to-person transmission is extremely rare). The treatment is based on the administration of an antibiotic.
What Is Leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium called leptospira. It is classified as a spirochete by having a helical shape.
Leptospira interrogans is a species that has traditionally been considered pathogenic (capable of causing disease) in humans and animals.
Leptospirosis is a disease that exists throughout the world, although it is more frequent in Southeast Asia, in parts of East Africa in the Caribbean, and in Oceania.
It is a zoonosis, that is, it is a disease that is transmitted from animals to humans. Transmission from person to person is extremely rare.
How Does It Contract?
Through the skin or mucous membranes (conjunctiva, nasal, oral) by direct contact with the urine or tissues of infected animals or indirectly by contact with contaminated water or soil. The bacterium passes into the blood and reaches the rest of the organs, mainly the liver and kidneys.
What Animals Can Transmit Leptospirosis To People?
Many animals can transmit this disease, including pets such as dogs, farm animals (cattle, pigs, horses, sheep, or goats), and wild animals, mainly rodents, which are the main reservoirs of the disease and can shed the bacteria through their urine even without showing signs of disease.
People Most At Risk Of Contracting The Infection
- People who work with animals (workers in slaughterhouses or farms, veterinarians, and animal handlers.
- People in contact with fresh water (the leptospira survives poorly in salt water) such as rivers or swamps…. o Sewage, o Potentially contaminated land, for example:
- Peasants or farmers, workers in paddy fields
- sewer workers
- Military personnel
- People who live in areas with poor hygiene conditions or in areas where floods have occurred.
- People who carry out activities such as swimming, kayaking, or triathlon participants in contact with fresh water
What Are The Symptoms Of Leptospirosis?
The symptoms of leptospirosis can appear from days to four weeks after being exposed to the bacteria.
- It usually begins with an acute phase that usually lasts 5 to 7 days characterized by flu-like symptoms. They can appear in various degrees: fever, chills, muscle pain, especially in the lower back and calves, headache, dry cough, pharyngitis, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, conjunctival suffusion (red conjunctiva), or skin rash.
- In 10% of cases, the disease progresses to a more serious form that can lead to death. Known as Weil’s disease or icteric leptospirosis, the classic definition of this form of leptospirosis includes fever, jaundice (yellowing), kidney failure, and bleeding. Other organs that can be affected are the heart (due to inflammation of the muscular tissue of the heart or due to the appearance of an arrhythmia), the lungs (pulmonary hemorrhage, respiratory failure), the central nervous system (meningitis, cranial nerve paralysis…) and the eye (various types of eye inflammation).
If it is transmitted during pregnancy, leptospirosis can cause abortion or infect the fetus. Leptospira can pass into breast milk.
How Is It Diagnosed?
- The isolation of the leptospira by performing cultures in fluids(blood, urine, cerebrospinal fluid) or tissues or with a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test may be more useful in the early phase of the disease.
- Serological tests are carried out in a blood test that demonstrates antibodies against leptospira.
- Study of the presence of leptospira in biopsies of kidney, liver, lung…
How Is Leptospirosis Treated?
- Hospital admission and even admission to the intensive care unit may be necessary depending on the severity of the disease,
- The treatment is based on the administration of an antibiotic that will be more effective the sooner it is started. Antibiotic treatment may include, among others:
- Ampicillin or amoxicillin.
- Azithromycin or clarithromycin.
- Intravenous penicillin or cephalosporins for more severe cases.
- Support measures with the administration of intravenous fluids, mechanical ventilatory support, and dialysis….
What you should know…
- Leptospirosis is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium called It is a zoonosis, that is, it is a disease that is transmitted from animals to humans (transmission from person to person is extremely rare).
- It usually begins with an acute phase that usually lasts 5 to 7 days characterized by flu-like symptoms. In 10% of cases, the disease progresses to a more serious form that can lead to death.
- The treatment is based on the administration of an antibiotic that will be more effective the sooner it is started.