Is Carriage of Leptospira interrogans by Rats Influenced by the Urban Environment or Population Density?

J Wildl Dis. 2021 Jan 6;57(1):157-161. doi: 10.7589/2019-09-233.


Leptospira interrogans is one of the most important zoonotic pathogens globally. In urban settings, Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) are important reservoirs of L. interrogans, but it is unclear how this bacterium is transmitted among rats. Both environmental features and rat population density may determine the prevalence of this pathogen in rat populations as well as the spillover risk to people. While these factors could play an important role in transmission between rats, it is unknown whether such factors influence prevalence among rats at a fine scale. Our objective was to determine if carriage of L. interrogans by rats could be explained by variation in the environment or in rat population density. Rats were live-trapped in a single neighborhood of Vancouver, Canada during two study periods (2011-12; 2016-17) and were tested for L. interrogans. The physical environment of each city block was recorded using a comprehensive, in-person environmental survey. Using generalized linear mixed modelling, we found no evidence of an association between carriage of L. interrogans and environmental features or rat population density, suggesting that these were not the primary drivers of its distribution among rats within this neighborhood. Understanding factors that promote L. interrogans transmission can be used to inform management approaches to minimize public health risks.

Keywords: Leptospira; Density dependence; disease ecology; urban ecosystem; urban environment; urban rats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Distribution*
  • Animals
  • British Columbia / epidemiology
  • Demography*
  • Disease Reservoirs / veterinary
  • Leptospira interrogans / physiology*
  • Leptospirosis / epidemiology
  • Leptospirosis / microbiology
  • Leptospirosis / veterinary*
  • Rats / immunology
  • Rats / microbiology*
  • Rodent Diseases / epidemiology
  • Rodent Diseases / microbiology*