Leptospirosis: risks during recreational activities

J Appl Microbiol. 2009 Sep;107(3):707-16. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2009.04220.x. Epub 2009 Mar 3.


Summary Rats, dogs, cattle, bats and sea lions, exemplify the diversity of mammalian species that can facilitate transmission of the zoonotic disease leptospirosis. The causative agent, pathogenic species of Leptospira, is shed in urine of chronically infected hosts. Direct contact with infected urine, or indirectly with water sources contaminated with infected urine, poses a risk of infection for humans exposed during water-related recreational and occupational activities. New serovars of Leptospira and maintenance hosts continue to be identified. In the western world, incidences of recreational exposure are increasing, while incidences of occupational exposure are decreasing. Adventure travellers returning from tropical regions, are presenting at clinics with symptoms of leptospirosis following participation in high risk activities including white water rafting, triathlons, endurance races and caving. Risks of infection can be reduced with increased awareness of how the disease is contracted, by avoiding contact with high risk water sources and the use of prophylaxis during high risk activities. Molecular techniques can be used to provide risk assessments prior to competition, to supplement epidemiology, and to assess shedding of Leptospira in urine samples.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic
  • Animals, Wild
  • Cattle
  • Dogs
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leptospirosis / prevention & control
  • Leptospirosis / transmission*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Middle Aged
  • Rats
  • Recreation*
  • Risk Factors
  • Rivers