Pathogenic Leptospira are widespread in the urban wildlife of southern California

Sarah K. Helman, Amanda F.N. Tokuyama, Riley O. Mummah, Nathan E. Stone, Mason W. Gamble, Celine E. Snedden, Benny Borremans, Ana C.R. Gomez, Caitlin Cox, Julianne Nussbaum, Isobel Tweedt, David A. Haake, Renee L. Galloway, Javier Monzón, Seth P.D. Riley, Jeff A. Sikich, Justin Brown, Anthony Friscia, Jason W. Sahl, David M. WagnerJessica W. Lynch, Katherine C. Prager, James O. Lloyd-Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Leptospirosis, the most widespread zoonotic disease in the world, is broadly understudied in multi-host wildlife systems. Knowledge gaps regarding Leptospira circulation in wildlife, particularly in densely populated areas, contribute to frequent misdiagnoses in humans and domestic animals. We assessed Leptospira prevalence levels and risk factors in five target wildlife species across the greater Los Angeles region: striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis), raccoons (Procyon lotor), coyotes (Canis latrans), Virginia opossums (Didelphis virginiana), and fox squirrels (Sciurus niger). We sampled more than 960 individual animals, including over 700 from target species in the greater Los Angeles region, and an additional 266 sampled opportunistically from other California regions and species. In the five target species seroprevalences ranged from 5 to 60%, and infection prevalences ranged from 0.8 to 15.2% in all except fox squirrels (0%). Leptospira phylogenomics and patterns of serologic reactivity suggest that mainland terrestrial wildlife, particularly mesocarnivores, could be the source of repeated observed introductions of Leptospira into local marine and island ecosystems. Overall, we found evidence of widespread Leptospira exposure in wildlife across Los Angeles and surrounding regions. This indicates exposure risk for humans and domestic animals and highlights that this pathogen can circulate endemically in many wildlife species even in densely populated urban areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number14368
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Pathogenic Leptospira are widespread in the urban wildlife of southern California'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this