Selected content from the Animal Health and Production Compendium (© CAB International 2013). Distributed under license by African Union – Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources.
Whilst this information is provided by experts, we advise that users seek veterinary advice where appropriate and check OIE manuals for recent changes to regulations, diagnostic tests, vaccines and treatments.
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Identity Pathogen/s Overview Distribution Distribution Map for Africa Distribution Table for Africa Hosts/Species Affected Host Animals Systems Affected Epidemiology Zoonoses and Food Safety Disease Course Disease Treatment Prevention and Control References Links to Websites OIE Reference Experts and Laboratories
Preferred Scientific Name
International Common Names
leptospirosis in cattle, leptospirosis in sheep and goats, leptospirosis in swine, redwater of calves
Leptospira borgpetersenii serovar hardjo
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.
This disease is on the list of diseases notifiable to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The distribution section contains data from OIE's WAHID database on disease occurrence. Please see the AHPC library for further information on this disease from OIE, including the International Animal Health Code and the Manual of Standards for Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines. Also see the website: www.oie.int.
For current information on disease incidence, see OIE's WAHID Interface.
= Present, no further details = Widespread = Localised
= Confined and subject to quarantine = Occasional or few reports
= Evidence of pathogen = Last reported... = Presence unconfirmed
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 information for individual references may be available in the Animal Health and Production Compendium. A table for worldwide distribution can also be found in the Animal Health and Production Compendium.
|Country||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||References||Notes|
|Algeria||No information available||OIE, 2009|
|Angola||Last reported||2006||OIE, 2012|
|Benin||No information available||OIE, 2009|
|Botswana||Disease not reported||OIE, 2009|
|Burkina Faso||No information available||OIE, 2009|
|Burundi||No information available||OIE Handistatus, 2005|
|Cameroon||No information available||OIE Handistatus, 2005|
|Cape Verde||No information available||OIE, 2012|
|Central African Republic||Disease not reported||OIE Handistatus, 2005|
|Chad||No information available||OIE, 2009|
|Comoros||Disease not reported||OIE, 2012|
|Congo||Absent, reported but not confirmed||OIE, 2009|
|Congo Democratic Republic||Disease not reported||OIE Handistatus, 2005|
|Côte d'Ivoire||Disease not reported||OIE Handistatus, 2005|
|Djibouti||Disease not reported||OIE, 2009|
|Egypt||Disease never reported||OIE, 2012|
|Eritrea||No information available||OIE, 2009|
|Ethiopia||No information available||OIE, 2009|
|Gambia||No information available||OIE, 2009|
|Ghana||Disease not reported||OIE, 2012|
|Guinea||No information available||OIE, 2009|
|Guinea-Bissau||No information available||OIE, 2009|
|Kenya||Disease not reported||OIE, 2012|
|Lesotho||Disease not reported||OIE, 2009|
|Libya||Disease not reported||OIE Handistatus, 2005|
|Malawi||Absent, reported but not confirmed||OIE, 2012|
|Mali||No information available||OIE, 2009|
|Mauritius||Disease not reported||OIE, 2012|
|Morocco||No information available||OIE, 2009|
|Mozambique||Disease not reported||OIE, 2009|
|Namibia||Disease not reported||OIE, 2009|
|Nigeria||No information available||OIE, 2009|
|Réunion||Reported present or known to be present||OIE Handistatus, 2005|
|Rwanda||Disease never reported||OIE, 2009|
|Sao Tome and Principe||No information available||OIE Handistatus, 2005|
|Senegal||No information available||OIE, 2009|
|Seychelles||Reported present or known to be present||OIE, 2012|
|Sierra Leone||Disease not reported||OIE, 2012|
|Somalia||No information available||OIE Handistatus, 2005|
|South Africa||Present||OIE, 2009|
|Sudan||Disease not reported||OIE, 2009|
|Swaziland||No information available||OIE, 2009|
|Tanzania||No information available||OIE, 2009|
|Togo||Disease not reported||OIE, 2012|
|Tunisia||Disease not reported||OIE, 2012|
|Uganda||No information available||OIE, 2009|
|Zambia||No information available||OIE, 2009|
|Zimbabwe||Disease not reported||OIE, 2012|
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:
|Serovar||Maintenance hosts||Incidental hosts|
|pomona||pigs, cattle||sheep, horses, dogs|
|icterohaemorrhagiae||brown rat||humans, domestic animals|
|grippotyphosa||rodents||cattle, pigs, horses, dogs|
|bratislava||pigs, hedgehogs||horses, dogs|
The main causes of leptospirosis in pigs and ruminants are the following serovars of L. interrogans:
|pomona||cattle, sheep||acute haemolytic disease in calves and lambs; abortion|
|"||pigs||reproductive failure; septicaemia in piglets|
|icterohaemorrhagiae||cattle, sheep, pigs||abortion; acute haemolytic disease in calves and lambs|
|grippotyphosa||cattle, pigs||abortion; septicaemic disease in young animals|
|canicola||pigs||abortion/stillbirth; kidney disease in young pigs|
|bratislava||pigs||abortion, reproductive failure, stillbirth|
|tarassovi||pigs||abortion, stillbirth, abortion|
|hardjo*||cattle, sheep||abortion, 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).
|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|
|Homo sapiens||Wild host|
|Lama glama (llamas)||Domesticated host|
|Lama pacos (alpacas)||Domesticated host|
|Ovis aries (sheep)||Domesticated host|
|Sus scrofa (pigs)||Domesticated host|
Reproductive - Large Ruminants
Reproductive - Pigs
Reproductive - Small Ruminants
Urinary - Large Ruminants
Urinary - Pigs
Urinary - Small Ruminants
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).
Leptospirosis presents an important zoonotic risk to people working closely with pigs.
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 Leptospira hardjo 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.
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.
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)
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/pan-african-animal-health-yearbook
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.
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(http://www.oie.int, accessed 5 June 2013)
Sra. Jessica Petrakovsky (1)
Laboratorio de Leptospirosis
Dirección General de Laboratorios y Control Técnico
Servicio Nacional de Sanidad y Calidad Agroalimentaria (SENASA)
Avenida Talcahuano N° 1660 (1640)
Martínez, Pcia de Buenos Aires
Tel: +54-11 188.8.131.52 int 287 o 299 Fax: +54-11 184.108.40.206 int 288
Dr Luis Samartino (2)
Instituto de Bacteriología
Castelar, Casilla de Correo 77
Pcia de Buenos Aires
Tel: +54-11 46 21 12 89 Fax: +54-11 46 21 17 12
Dr Lee Smythe
Queensland Health Scientific Services
39 Kessels Road
P.O. Box 594
Archefield, Queensland 4108
Tel: +61-7 32 74 90 64 Fax: +61-7 32 74 01 75
Dr Rudy Hartskeerl
Royal Tropical Institute (KIT)
N.H. Swellengrebel Laboratory of Tropical Hygiene
Division of Health
Department of Biomedical Research
1105 AZ Amsterdam
Tel: +31-20 566 54 38 Fax: +31-20 697 18 41
Dr William A. Ellis
Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute
Department of Agriculture
Veterinary Sciences Division
Belfast BT4 3SD
Tel: +44-2890 51 94 41 Fax: +44-2890 52 57 55
Dr Mark Wilson
National Veterinary Services Laboratories
USDA, APHIS, Veterinary Services
P.O. Box 844
Ames, Iowa 50010
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Tel: +1-515 337.73.42 Fax: +1-515 337.75.69
Date of report: 03/06/2013
© CAB International 2013. Distributed under license by African Union – Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.