Journal of Biosciences

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 557–569

Leptospirosis: an emerging global public health problem



Leptospirosis has been recognized as an emerging global public health problem because of its increasing incidence in both developing and developed countries. A number of leptospirosis outbreaks have occurred in the past few years in various places such as Nicaragua, Brazil and India. Some of these resulted due to natural calamities such as cyclone and floods. It is a direct zoonotic disease caused by spirochetes belonging to different pathogenic species of the genus Leptospira. Large number of animals acts as carriers or vectors. Human infection results from accidental contact with carrier animals or environment contaminated with leptospires. The primary source of leptospires is the excretor animal, from whose renal tubules leptospires are excreted into the environment with the animal urine. Majority of leptospiral infections are either sub clinical or result in very mild illness and recover without any complications. However, a small proportion develops various complications due to involvement of multiple organ systems. In such patients, the clinical presentation depends upon the predominant organs involved and the case fatality ratio could be about 40% or more. Febrile illness with icterus, splenomegaly and nephritis (known as Weil’s disease), acute febrile illness with severe muscle pain, febrile illness with pulmonary haemorrhages in the form of haemoptysis, jaundice with pulmonary haemorrhages, jaundice with heamaturea, meningitis with haemorrhages including sub conjunctival haemorrhage or febrile illness with cardiac arrhythmias with or without haemorrhages are some of the syndromes. Because of the protean manifestations of leptospirosis it is often misdiagnosed and under-reported. Although the basic principles of prevention such as source reduction, environmental sanitation, more hygienic work-related and personal practices etc., are same everywhere, there is no universal control method applicable to all epidemiological settings. Comprehensive understanding of the eco- epidemiological and cultural characteristics of a community that faces the problem of leptospirosis is an essential prerequisite for evolving an effective and acceptable control measure.


Genome leptospirosis occupational risk public health problem Weil’s disease zoonosis 

Abbreviations used


case fatality ratio


microagglutination test


outer-membrane proteins


polymerase chain reactions


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Copyright information

© Indian Academy of Sciences 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. Vijayachari
    • 1
  • A. P. Sugunan
    • 1
  • A. N. Shriram
    • 1
  1. 1.Regional Medical Research Centre (Indian Council of Medical Research)WHO Collaborating Centre for Diagnosis, Research, Reference and Training in LeptospirosisAndaman and Nicobar IslandsIndia

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