Dr. Ayush PandeyMBBS,PG Diploma

December 23, 2018

March 06, 2020


What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is an infection that is caused by a spiral-shaped bacterium (spirochete) called Leptospira. The infection can produce a wide spectrum of symptoms, many of which resemble those of other infections. Therefore, a definitive diagnosis requires testing urine or blood samples. The complications associated with the condition include damage to the kidneys, respiratory distress, liver failure and meningitis (swelling in the protective brain coverings called meninges).

What are its main signs and symptoms?

Leptospirosis causes the following symptoms:

The time between exposure to the bacteria and falling sick is two days to four weeks, with fever as the first symptom of the condition. Leptospirosis has two prominent phases:

  • Phase 1: fever, headache, vomiting and muscle pain.
  • Phase 2: kidney or liver damage, inflammation or swelling of the iris or nerve disorder along with meningitis.

Leptospirosis can prove fatal for a pregnant female and may also cause abortion. 

What are its main causes? 

Infection occurs due to contact with urine of the infected animals. The bacterium can be found in the urine of dogs, cattle, horses, cats and other domestic animals. Leptospira is found in rodents as well. Any kind of direct contact with the infected urine or even with the food or water contaminated with it can cause the infection. The bacteria enter through mucosal surfaces, such as the eyes or nose or through a break in the skin. Human carriers are rare; therefore, the disease is not known to spread from person to person.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

Diagnosis can be made by culturing the bacteria from the body fluids during the early stages of the illness. The cerebrospinal fluid (a fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord) is usually tested during the initial days, while the urine may be cultured in the later stages. Likewise, tests of blood and immune system cells may also be undertaken to confirm the diagnosis.

Antibiotics like penicillin, doxycycline, streptomycin and erythromycin are effective against the infection. In cases of respiratory distress, mechanical ventilation provides substantial relief. Peritoneal dialysis in combination with antibiotics is used to treat liver and kidney failure.


  • Avoiding skin contact with infected animals.
  • Wearing protective clothing while cleaning domestic animals.
  • The risk of infection can be reduced by not consuming or swimming in waters that might be contaminated with animal urine. 


  1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Leptospirosis
  2. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Signs and Symptoms
  3. National Organization for Rare Disorders. Leptospirosis. [Internet]
  4. Paul N. Levett. Leptospirosis. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2001 Apr; 14(2): 296–326. PMID: 11292640
  5. World Health Organization, Department of Reproductive Health and Research. Leptospirosis. Fifth edition; World Health Organization; 2010.