Leptospira spp.


  • Leptospira is one of the spirochetes [Fig 1] pathogenic for humans (other examples, Borrelia burgdorferi causing Lyme disease, relapsing fever Borreliae, and Treponemes e.g., Treponema pallidum [syphilis]).
    • Organisms don’t replicate in the environment but may survive in standing water or contaminated soils.
  • Multiple species described (66) and may also be classified by serovars (>300) both pathogenic and non-pathogenic for humans. Further divisions into subclades, for human pathogens
    • P1 subclade, 8 species, may cause severe illness: L. alexanderi, L. borgpetersenii, L. interrogans, L. kirschneri, L. mayottensis, L. noguchii, L. santarosai, L. weillii.
    • P2 subclade, 21 species, usually mild infection. The remaining 26 species comprise the S1 and S2 subclades, which include "saprophytes" known to consume decaying matter (saprotrophic nutrition).
  • Zoonotic disease, transmitted by domestic animals (dogs, cattle, pigs, and more) and rodents (rats, mice).
  • Difficult to culture in the laboratory, fastidious.
    • Liquid media is preferred (e.g, modified Ellinghausen McCulloughJohnson Harris (EMJH) medium +/- 5-FU), temperature 29-32°C. Doubling time 6-18h.
    • Aerobic, but CO2 needed; aeration appears to help growth.

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Last updated: October 4, 2020