Leptospirosis

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP
    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP

    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP

    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Indiana University.

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Leptospirosis facts

  • Leptospirosis is an infectious disease that can occur in humans and animals worldwide.
  • A spirochete, Leptospira interrogans, causes leptospirosis.
  • High risk factors include close association with animals and the water and soil they may contaminate with infected urine.
  • Symptoms and signs of leptospirosis are highly variable and range from no symptoms to nonspecific symptoms including high fever, chills, headache, abdominal symptoms to Weil's disease with organ dysfunction.
  • Definitive diagnosis is done by isolating the bacteria from the patient; serological tests are also available.
  • There are antibiotics that are effective in treating leptospirosis.
  • Most people infected with Leptospira interrogans bacteria have a good prognosis; a few have a more guarded prognosis.
  • Vaccines are available for humans and animals in some countries; there is no vaccine available commercially for humans in the U.S.; available vaccines are very limited because they usually only protect well against a single serovar. Doxycycline (Vibramycin, Oracea, Adoxa, Atridox) has been used as a short-term prophylactic treatment to protect some humans from leptospirosis.

What is leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a disease caused by bacteria (Leptospira interrogans) that produce a wide range of symptoms that may occur in phases; some patients may develop kidney or liver failure, respiratory failure, meningitis, or even death. The disease is spread by the urine of infected animals (many species, both domesticated and wild); the bacteria can survive in the water and soil for months. The disease is most common in temperate and tropical climates. The infecting bacteria occur worldwide.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/11/2015

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