Sero-prevalence and risk factors for leptospirosis in abattoir workers in New Zealand

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014 Feb 5;11(2):1756-75. doi: 10.3390/ijerph110201756.


Leptospirosis is an important occupational disease in New Zealand. The objectives of this study were to determine risk factors for sero-prevalence of leptospiral antibodies in abattoir workers. Sera were collected from 567 abattoir workers and tested by microscopic agglutination for Leptospira interrogans sv. Pomona and Leptospira borgpetersenii sv. Hardjobovis. Association between prevalence and risk factors were determined by species specific multivariable analysis. Eleven percent of workers had antibodies against Hardjobovis or/and Pomona. Workers from the four sheep abattoirs had an average sero-prevalence of 10%-31%, from the two deer abattoirs 17%-19% and the two beef abattoirs 5%. The strongest risk factor for sero-positivity in sheep and deer abattoirs was work position. In sheep abattoirs, prevalence was highest at stunning and hide removal, followed by removal of the bladder and kidneys. Wearing personal protective equipment such as gloves and facemasks did not appear to protect against infection. Home slaughtering, farming or hunting were not significantly associated with sero-prevalence. There is substantial risk of exposure to leptospires in sheep and deer abattoirs in New Zealand and a persisting, but lower risk, in beef abattoirs. Interventions, such as animal vaccination, appear necessary to control leptospirosis as an occupational disease in New Zealand.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abattoirs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Deer
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leptospira / immunology
  • Leptospirosis / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis*
  • Prevalence
  • Protective Clothing / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Sheep