Leptospirosis in northern Tanzania: exploring the role of rodents and ruminant livestock in a neglected public health problem

Allan, Kathryn J. (2016) Leptospirosis in northern Tanzania: exploring the role of rodents and ruminant livestock in a neglected public health problem. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

Leptospirosis is an important but neglected zoonotic disease that is often overlooked in Africa. Although comprehensive data on the incidence of human disease are lacking, robust evidence of infection has been demonstrated in people and animals from all regions of the continent. However, to date, there are few examples of direct epidemiological linkages between human disease and animal infection. In East Africa, awareness of the importance of human leptospirosis as a cause of non-malarial febrile illness is growing. In northern Tanzania, acute leptospirosis has been diagnosed in 9% of patients with severe febrile illness compared to only 2% with malaria. However, little is known about the relative importance of different potential animal hosts as sources of human infection in this area. This project was established to investigate the roles of rodents and ruminant livestock, important hosts of Leptospira in other settings, in the epidemiology of leptospirosis in northern Tanzania. A cross-sectional survey of rodents living in and around human settlements was performed alongside an abattoir survey of ruminant livestock. Unusual patterns of animal infection were detected by real-time PCR detection. Renal Leptospira infection was absent from rodents but was detected in cattle from several geographic areas. Infection was demonstrated for the first time in small ruminants sub-Saharan Africa. Two major Leptospira species and a novel Leptospira genotype were detected in livestock. L. borgpetersenii was seen only in cattle but L. kirschneri infection was detected in multiple livestock species (cattle, sheep and goats), suggesting that at least two distinct patterns of Leptospira infection occur in livestock in northern Tanzania. Analysis of samples from acute leptospirosis in febrile human patients could not detect Leptospira DNA by real-time PCR but identified social and behavioural factors that may limit the utility of acute-phase diagnostic tests in this community. Analysis of serological data revealed considerable overlap between serogroups detected in cattle and human leptospirosis cases. Human disease was most commonly attributed to the serogroups Mini and Australis, which were also predominant reactive serogroups in cattle. Collectively, the results of this study led to the hypothesis that livestock are an important reservoir of Leptospira infection for people in northern Tanzania. These results also challenge our understanding of the relationship between Leptospira and common invasive rodent species, which do not appear to maintain infection in this setting. Livestock Leptospira infection has substantial potential to affect the well-being of people in East Africa, through direct transmission of infection or through indirect effects on food production and economic security. Further research is needed to quantify the impact of livestock leptospirosis in Africa and to develop effective interventions for the control of human and animal disease.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Leptospirosis, fever, zoonoses, rodents, livestock, Tanzania, Africa.
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
S Agriculture > SF Animal culture > SF600 Veterinary Medicine
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Funder's Name: Wellcome Trust (WELLCOME)
Supervisor's Name: Cleaveland, Professor Sarah and Halliday, Dr. Jo E.B.
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Dr Kathryn J. Allan
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7565
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 07 Sep 2016 13:37
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2017 09:42
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/7565

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