Leptospirosis (also known as Weil's disease, Weil's syndrome, canicola fever, canefield fever, nanukayami fever, 7-day fever and many more[1]) is a bacterial zoonotic disease caused by spirochaetes of the genus Leptospira that affects humans and a wide range of animals, including mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. It was first described by Adolf Weil in 1886 when he reported an "acute infectious disease with enlargement of spleen, jaundice and nephritis". Leptospira was first observed in 1907 from a post mortem renal tissue slice.


In animals, the incubation period (time of exposure to first symptoms) is anywhere from 2 to 20 days. In dogs, the liver and kidney are most commonly damaged by leptospirosis. Vasculitis can occur, causing edema and potentially disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC). Myocarditis, pericarditis, meningitis, and uveitis are also possible sequelae. [3] One should strongly suspect leptospirosis and include it as part of a differential diagnosis if the sclerae of the dog's eyes appear jaundiced (even slightly yellow), though the absence of jaundice does not eliminate the possibility of leptospirosis, and its presence could indicate hepatitis or other liver pathology rather than leptospirosis. Vomiting, fever, failure to eat, reduced urine output, unusually dark or brown urine, and lethargy are also indications of the disease. In humans, leptospiral infection causes a wide range of symptoms, and some infected persons may have no symptoms at all. Leptospirosis is a biphasic disease that begins with flu-like symptoms (fever, chills, myalgias, intense headache). The first phase resolves, and the patient is briefly asymptomatic until the second phase begins. This is characterized by meningitis, liver damage (causing jaundice), and renal failure; because of the wide range of symptoms the infection is often wrongly diagnosed. This leads to a lower registered number of cases than there really are. Symptoms of leptospirosis include high fever, severe headache, chills, muscle aches, and vomiting, and may include jaundice, red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and/or a rash. The symptoms in humans appear after a 4-14 day incubation period.


Leptospirosis is caused by a spirochaete bacterium called Leptospira spp. that has at least 5 serovars of importance in the United States and Canada causing disease in dogs (Icterohaemorrhagiae, Canicola, Pomona, Grippotyphosa, and Bratislava)[3] There are other (less common) infectious strains. It should however be noted that genetically different leptospira organisms may be identical serologically and vice versa. Hence, an argument exists on the basis of strain identification. The traditional serologic system is seemingly more useful from a diagnostic and epidemiologic standpoint at the moment (which may change with further development and spread of technologies like


On infection the microorganism can be found in blood for the first 7 to 10 days (invoking serologically identifiable reactions) and then moving to the kidneys. After 7 to 10 days the microorganism can be found in fresh urine. Hence, early diagnostic efforts include testing a serum or blood sample serologically with a panel of different strains. It is also possible to culture the microorganism from blood, serum, fresh urine and possibly fresh kidney biopsy. Kidney function tests (Blood Urea Nitrogen and creatinine) as well as blood tests for liver functions are performed. The latter reveal a moderate elevation of transaminases. Brief elevations of aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), and gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT) levels are relatively mild. These levels may be normal, even in children with jaundice. Diagnosis of leptospirosis is confirmed with tests such as Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) and PCR. Serological testing, the MAT (microscopic agglutination test), is considered the gold standard in diagnosing leptospirosis. As a large panel of different leptospira need to be subcultured frequently, which is both laborious and expensive, it is underused, mainly in developing countries. Differential diagnosis list for leptospirosis is very large due to diverse symptomatics. For forms with middle to high severity, the list includes dengue fever and other hemorrhagic fevers, hepatitis of various etiologies, viral meningitis, malaria and typhoid fever. Light forms should be distinguished from influenza and other related viral diseases. Specific tests are a must for proper diagnosis of leptospirosis. Under circumstances of limited access (e.g., developing countries) to specific diagnostic means, close attention must be paid to anamnesis of the patient. Factors like certain dwelling areas, seasonality, contact with stagnant contaminated water (Bathing swimming, working on flooded meadows, etc) and/or rodents in the medical history support the leptospirosis hypothesis and serve as indications for specific tests (if available).


Leptospirosis treatment is a relatively complicated process comprising two main components - suppressing the causative agent and fighting possible complications. Aetiotropic drugs are antibiotics, such as cefotaxime, doxycycline, penicillin, ampicillin, and amoxicillin (doxycycline can also be used as a prophylaxis). There are no human vaccines; animal vaccines are only for a few strains, and are only effective for a few months. Human therapeutic dosage of drugs is as follows: doxycycline 100 mg orally every 12 hours for 1 week or penicillin 1-1.5 MU every 4 hours for 1 week. Doxycycline 200-250 mg once a week is administered as a prophylaxis. In dogs, penicillin is most commonly used to end the leptospiremic phase (infection of the blood), and doxycycline is used to eliminate the carrier state. Supportive therapy measures (esp. in severe cases) include detoxication and normalization of the hydro-electrolytic balance. Glucose and salt solution infusions may be administered; dialysis is used in serious cases. Elevations of serum potassium are common and if the potassium level gets too high special measures must be taken. Serum phosphorus levels may likewise increase to unacceptable levels due to renal failure. Treatment for hyperphosphatemia consists of treating the underlying disease, dialysis where appropriate, or oral administration of calcium carbonate, but not without first checking the serum calcium levels (these two levels are related). Corticosteroids administration in gradually reduced doses (e.g., prednisolone starting from 30-60 mg) during 7-10 days is recommended by some specialists in cases of severe haemorrhagic effects. Organ specific care and treatment are essential in cases of renal, liver or heart involvement.