Leptospirosis : Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Management and Prevention

Leptospirosis : Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Management and Prevention

It is an infectious disease caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira and affects both humans as well as other animals. Leptospirosis is one of the world’s most widespread diseases transmitted by animals to humans. The infection is generally transmitted to humans by water that has been contaminated by animal urine which comes in contact with unhealed breaks in the skin, the eyes, or with the mucous membranes.

In most of the cases, leptospirosis only causes mild flu-like symptoms, such as headache, chills and muscle pain. However, in some cases the infection is more severe and can cause life-threatening problems, including organ failure and internal bleeding. Severe form of leptospirosis is known as Weil’s disease.



Mild symptoms, includes:
• High temperature (fever) that is usually between 38 and 40°C (100.4-104°F)
• Sudden headache and chills
• Nausea and Vomiting
• Loss of appetite
• Muscular pain especially in the muscles of calves and lower back
• Conjunctivitis (irritation and redness of the eyes)
• Cough
• Short-lived rash
More severe manifestations include :
• Meningitis
• Extreme fatigue
• Hearing loss
• Respiratory distress
• Azotemia
Renal interstitial tubular necrosis, which results in renal failure and occasionally liver failure is the severe form of this disease known as Weil’s disease, though it is sometimes named Weil Syndrome.


Leptospirosis iscaused by bacteria called leptospira, which is found in urine of infected   animals and infection can spread from animals to humans. Rodents, Cattle, buffaloes, horses, sheep, goat, pigs and dogs are considered common reservoirs of the bacteria that cause leptospirosis.
The incubation period of leptospirosis is usually 5–14 days, with a range of 2–30 days.

Outbreaks of leptospirosis can occur, due to close contact with infected freshwater sources, such as some water sports. It is also possible for people to become infected after a natural disaster, such as a flood.



Blood test is done to detect antibodies for the bacteria.
Other tests include:
  • Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)
  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)
  • MAT (microscopic agglutination test) which is a serological test, is considered the gold standard in diagnosing leptospirosis.



Leptospirosis can be treated with medicines like:

  • Ampicillin
  • Azithromycin
  • Ceftriaxone
  • Doxycycline
  • Penicillin


Prevention :

Although human vaccines have been used in some countries with varying degrees of success, there are no WHO pre-qualified vaccines currently available.

Measures to prevent transmission of leptospirosis include the following:

  • Wearing protective clothing (boots, gloves, spectacles, aprons, masks).
  • Covering skin lesions with waterproof dressings.
  • Preventing access to, or giving adequate warning about water bodies known or suspected to be contaminated (pools, ponds, rivers). Try to avoid wading or swimming in potentially contaminated water.
  • Washing or showering after exposure to urine splashes or contaminated soil or water.
  • Washing and cleaning wounds.
  • Avoiding or preventing urine splashes and aerosols, avoiding touching ill or dead animals, or assisting animals in giving birth.
  • Strictly maintaining hygienic measures during care or handling all animals.
  • Where feasible, disinfecting contaminated areas (scrubbing floors in stables, butcheries, abattoirs, etc.).
  • Consuming clean drinking-water.