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.

Is a vaccine available for leptospirosis? Is it possible to prevent leptospirosis?

A vaccine for leptospirosis is not currently available in the U.S.; however, high-risk workers in some European and Asian countries may have access to a vaccine. Unfortunately, the vaccines are serovar-specific (bacterial-strain specific) and thus do not offer widespread protection. Some vaccines are available for animals but these, like the human vaccines, are only effective against a narrow range of serovars. In addition, side effects of the vaccine can cause painful swelling. Chemoprophylaxis (using drugs to prevent illness) is possible under certain circumstances. Some individuals who may have high short-time risk (for example, military personnel) may take doxycycline (200 mg/week), beginning one to two days before potential exposure to have about a 95% chance of preventing infection with chemoprophylaxis. This preventive treatment is not recommended for long terms of exposure.

Avoiding contact with animal excrement, good hygiene, and avoiding contaminated water and soil are other ways to reduce the chance of getting leptospirosis.

Dogs, and many other animals, can be infected with leptospirosis. Veterinarians have access to vaccines that can protect (or prevent) leptospirosis in dogs and other animals for at least 12 months. This vaccination may help protect the animals' owners and other local or family owned animals from the disease for approximately one year.

REFERENCE:

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Leptospirosis." July 20, 2015. <http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2016/infectious-diseases-related-to-travel/leptospirosis>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/12/2016

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