Meta-analysis to estimate the load of Leptospira excreted in urine: Beyond rats as important sources of transmission in low-income rural communities

Veronica Barragan, Nathan Nieto, Paul Keim, Talima Pearson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Background: Leptospirosis is a major zoonotic disease with widespread distribution and a large impact on human health. Carrier animals excrete pathogenic Leptospira primarily in their urine. Infection occurs when the pathogen enters a host through mucosa or small skin abrasions. Humans and other animals are exposed to the pathogen by direct contact with urine, contaminated soil or water. While many factors influence environmental cycling and the transmission of Leptospira to humans, the load of pathogenic Leptospira in the environment is likely to play a major role. Peridomestic rats are often implicated as a potential source of human disease; however exposure to other animals is a risk factor as well. The aim of this report is to highlight the importance of various carrier animals in terms of the quantity of Leptospira shed into the environment. For this, we performed a systematic literature review and a meta-analysis of the amount of pathogen that various animal species shed in their urine. Results: The quantity of pathogen has been reported for cows, deer, dogs, humans, mice, and rats, in a total of 14 research articles. We estimated the average Leptospira per unit volume shed by each animal species, and the daily environmental contribution by considering the total volume of urine excreted by each carrier animal. Rats excrete the highest quantity of Leptospira per millilitre of urine (median = 5.7 × 106 cells), but large mammals excrete much more urine and thus shed significantly more Leptospira per day (5.1 × 108 to 1.3 × 109 cells). Conclusions: Here we illustrate how, in a low-income rural Ecuadorian community, host population demographics, and prevalence of Leptospira infection can be integrated with estimates of shed Leptospira to suggest that peridomestic cattle may be more important than rats in environmental cycling and ultimately, transmission to humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number71
JournalBMC Research Notes
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 28 2017


  • Animal reservoirs
  • Leptospira
  • Transmission
  • Urine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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