Epidemiologic features of equine Leptospira interrogans of human significance

Prev Vet Med. 1998 Aug 7;36(2):153-65. doi: 10.1016/s0167-5877(98)00069-5.


Leptospirosis is a zoonotic bacterial disease caused by Leptospira interrogans. There is a serologic evidence that horses are exposed to L. interrogans and, as a shedder of these organisms, can be a threat to humans. We examined risk factors associated with the risk of testing seropositive to three L. interrogans serovars (L. icterohaemorrhagiae, L. grippotyphosa, and L. canicola) in the horses of New York State, in order to understand the epidemiology of the disease and suggest strategies to control and prevent equine leptospirosis. To carry out this study, blood samples were collected from a random sample of 2551 horses and tested for the presence of antibodies to the above serovars using the microscopic agglutination test. Samples with a titer $100 were considered positive. Clinical and demographic data were collected on each horse, the farms' management practices and ecology. Logistic regression analysis was used to develop a multivariate indexing system and to identify factors significantly associated with the risk of leptospirosis. Four indices were developed based on the possible sources of exposure: rodent exposure index; wildlife exposure index; soil and water index; and management index. The soil and water index was significantly associated with the risk of exposure to all three serovars. Management was positively associated with L. icterohaemorrhagiae and L. canicola. Density of horses turned out together was positively associated with the risk of exposure to L. grippotyphosa. We concluded that indirect exposure of horses to L. interrogans through contaminated soil and water appears to be significantly associated with the risk of exposure to all three serovars. Management appears to play an important role in the exposure to L. interrogans. Modification of management practices might reduce the horses' risk of exposure and hopefully minimize the human hazards.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Horse Diseases / epidemiology
  • Horse Diseases / microbiology*
  • Horses / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Leptospira interrogans*
  • New York / epidemiology
  • Weil Disease / epidemiology
  • Weil Disease / microbiology
  • Weil Disease / veterinary*
  • Zoonoses / epidemiology
  • Zoonoses / microbiology*