The role of dogs in the epidemiology of leptospirosis in Switzerland

Seroprevalence and urinary shedding of pathogenic leptospires

The incidence of canine leptospirosis in Switzerland is unusually high with up to 28.1 diagnosed cases/100,000 dogs/year. At the small animal hospital of the Vetsuisse Faculty Bern 30-50 confirmed cases of canine leptospirosis are treated annually. The majority of these dogs (76.7%), present a particularly severe form of leptospirosis, which is associated with pulmonary haemorrhage (Leptospiral Pulmonary Haemorrhage Syndrome, LPHS) leading to high mortality. LPHS has been increasingly recognised in both humans, domestic and wild animals in the last 20 years. The role of the dog in the epidemiology of leptospirosis is poorly understood. Previous studies showed that between 1.5-8% of dogs shed pathogenic leptospires in their urine, thus contributing to the spread of the organisms in the environment.

The aims of this project are to:

  1. Determine the prevalence of antileptospiral antibodies and the prevalence of urinary shedding of pathogenic leptospires in dogs not suspected to have leptospirosis in Switzerland.
  2. Determine the magnitude and duration of urinary shedding of pathogenic leptospires in dogs undergoing treatment for acute leptospirosis.
  3. Detect possible contamination of surface water by RT PCR in environmental samples.