Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease caused by Leptospira bacteria. Although more common in tropical areas of the world, the disease is also present in temperate areas, including Europe. Different species of domestic and wild animals act as maintenance hosts.
Humans acquire leptospirosis either from direct contact with the urine of infected animals, or from contact with material contaminated by it, such as water or soil. After exposure, the incubation period ranges between two and 30 days (with an average of 10 days). The clinical presentation is variable. Fever, muscle ache and eye infection are very frequent. Liver, kidney, lung, heart, and more rarely brain involvement and bleeding characterise the most serious clinical presentations. Timely antibiotic treatment is effective, and the death rate is low, but does increase with advancing age and may reach up to 20% or more in complicated cases with severe disease.
Preventive measures include controlling rodent populations, avoiding contaminated areas and covering cuts and abraded skin when operating in the environment. Immunisation of persons at occupational risk of exposure has been carried out in some countries (Italy, France, Spain). Read more