Leptospirosis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a pathological bacterial infection which is basically transmitted by animals to humans. Leptospirosis is transmitted to humans when they come in contact with water that has been contaminated with animal urine. When this contaminated water comes in contact with a cut or break in the skin the bacteria infiltrates the body and causes symptoms like headache, chills, and pain in the muscles. In some cases, Leptospirosis infection may be so severe that it may result in potentially serious complications to include organ failure and internal bleeding.

What is Leptospirosis?

What are the Causes of Leptospirosis?

The root cause of Leptospirosis is the bacterium Leptospira, which is usually found in the urine of an infected animal. This infection then spreads to humans when they somehow come in contact with animal urine. The bacteria causing Leptospirosis are mostly found in rats, buffaloes, goat, and pigs. Once infected, it takes about two weeks for the symptoms of Leptospirosis to develop.

The main reason for Leptospirosis is close contact with animals and hence people working in ranches and farms and more at risk for developing Leptospirosis. Leptospirosis can also occur after a natural disaster like a flood where it is easy for animal urine to come in contact with humans because of the calamity.

What are the Symptoms of Leptospirosis?

The symptoms of Leptospirosis can range from mild to severe. The symptoms of mild form of Leptospirosis are:

  • High fever
  • Sudden onset persistent headache
  • Nausea with vomiting
  • Appetite loss
  • Pain in the muscles of the lower back and calves
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Persistent cough

The symptoms of the severe form of Leptospirosis are:

With advancement of the disease process there will be development of renal dysfunction with eventual renal failure and occasionally liver failure

How is Leptospirosis Diagnosed?

For a confirmatory diagnosis of Leptospirosis, a blood test can be done to look for antibodies for the offending bacteria. Additionally, a microscopic agglutination test is done to confirmatively diagnose Leptospirosis.

How is Leptospirosis Treated?

The mainstay of treatment for Leptospirosis is antibiotics. It is essential that the disease is identified early and treatment is started as soon as a diagnosis is made so as to prevent complications. Penicillin and doxycycline are the most preferred medications given for Leptospirosis.

For individuals with severe forms of Leptospirosis, treatment is given in an inpatient setting with intravenous antibiotics. Additionally, medications like ampicillin, azithromycin, ceftriaxone can also be given for successful treatment of Leptospirosis.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 5, 2018

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