U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


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Agricultural Research Magazine 60(1): January 2012 p. 10-12; ISSN 0002-161X


“The disease in humans can often be an acute infection,” says lead scientist Richard Zuerner, a former microbiologist with the Agricultural Research Service’s National Animal Disease Center (NADC) in Ames, Iowa. “In areas where it is endemic, like Brazil, it occurs on a periodic basis, and a portion of those infected will experience pulmonary hemorrhage, which can lead to a very rapid and painful death.”

Leptospirosis in livestock can cause abortions, stillbirths, reduced milk production, and lower fertility, Zuerner says. In horses, it can also result in uveitis, a potential cause of blindness.

Less is known about leptospirosis in wildlife, such as California sea lions, but scientists are finding out how the disease is spread in these mammals, exploring vaccines for cattle that carry the virus, and using hamsters as models to better understand leptospirosis.