Leptospirosis in dogs has been largely described worldwide, and epidemiological studies have been mainly based on serological data. This study aims to detect and genotype leptospires affecting symptomatic dogs in Northeast Italy between 2013 and 2019. Overall, 1631 dogs were tested using real-time PCR, and leptospires from 193 dogs were subjected to Multilocus Sequence Typing and a Multiple Loci Variable-number Tandem Repeat Analysis. Leptospires were successfully isolated from 15 symptomatic dogs. Six distinct Sequence Types (STs) were found for 135 leptospires, with 3 STs characterizing Leptospira interrogans (ST17, ST198 and ST24), 2 STs characterizing Leptospira kirschneri (ST117 and ST289) and 1 ST characterizing Leptospira borgpetersenii (ST155), revealing the circulation of the serogroups Icterohaemorrhagiae, Australis, Sejroe and Pomona. The Multiple Loci Variable-number Tandem Repeat Analysis of 17 samples did not result in any additional discrimination. Genotypes were compared with those of strains present in the historical internal database, and possible transmission chains were identified from rat, mouse, hedgehog and pig. This work highlights the importance of molecular methods in revealing and identifying circulating Leptospira strains, and it also encourages the evaluation of the ability of commercially available vaccines to reduce the disease burden among dogs.
Keywords: dog; epidemiology; genotyping; leptospirosis; multilocus sequence typing; multiple loci variable-number tandem repeat analysis; real-time PCR.