Leptospirosis (Weil’s Disease): Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Leptospirosis (Weil’s Disease): Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Leptospirosis is an infection caused by Leptospira, a spirochete with hook-shaped ends found in water contaminated with animal urine.

Leptospirosis causes flu-like symptoms, myalgias (classically of calves), jaundice, and photophobia with conjunctival suffusion. It is prevalent among surfers and in tropics (e.g., Hawaii). Whereas Weil disease (icterohemorrhagic leptospirosis) causes severe form with jaundice and azotemia from liver and kidney dysfunction, fever, hemorrhage, and anemia.

Diagnosed by looking for antibodies against the bacterium or finding its DNA in the blood.

It is estimated that 7-10 million people are infected by leptospirosis per year. The disease is common in tropical areas of the world but may occur anywhere. In India, it is extremely rare; fewer than five thousand cases are reported every year. Symptoms may vary by the type of animal and in some animals Leptospira lives in the reproductive tract, leading to transmission during mating.

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How does Leptospirosis affect your body?

Leptospira can enter into humans through cuts and abrasions in the skin, through intact mucous membranes and perhaps through waterlogged skin. After infection, Leptospira appears in the blood and invade practically all tissues and organs. They are later cleared from the body by the host’s immune response to the infection. However, the parasite may settle in the convoluted tubules of the kidneys and be shed in the urine for a period of a few weeks to several months and later may persist in the eyes for much longer. During this time damage to the endothelial lining of small blood vessels might have done causing harm to internal organs.

What are the causes of Leptospirosis?

  • Leptospirosis result primarily from direct or indirect exposure to the urine of infected animals.
  • Handling infected animal tissues and ingestion of contaminated food and water can also transmit the infection.
  • Leptospirosis can be caused by one human to another by sexual intercourse or from mother to fetus during pregnancy and by breastfeeding.

What are the risk factors of Leptospirosis?

  • Spending a lot of time around animals or in the outdoors can increase the risk.
  • Exposure to the disease is higher if you are a veterinarian, underground worker, slaughterhouse worker or military personnel.
  • Rafting, swimming, or camping near the affected lakes and rivers, could increase the risk of getting the disease.
  • Leptospirosis is more often found in warm climates especially common in Australia, Africa, Southeast Asia, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.
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What are the symptoms of Leptospirosis?

  • Symptoms of leptospirosis are usually observed 2 days to 4 weeks after being infected by the parasite.
  • Symptoms of the first phase include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • If a second phase occurs, the person may have kidney or liver failure or meningitis.
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How is Leptospirosis diagnosed?

A mild case of leptospirosis is difficult to diagnose as the symptoms tend to resemble those of other conditions, such as the flu.

However, Weil’s disease is easier to diagnose because the symptoms are more severe. To diagnose your doctor may ask you the following things:

  • recently travelled places
  • participated in water sports
  • came in contact with a freshwater source
  • an occupation like working with animals or animal products

Lab tests including blood or urine test may be performed for Leptospira bacteria.

In the case of Weil’s disease, imaging scans will be performed to know which organ is affected.

Read More: Sickle Cell Anaemia Diagnosis

How to prevent and control Leptospirosis?

  • Avoid coming in contact with water or soil that may be contaminated with animal urine.
  • Don’t swim in, swallow floodwaters or water from lakes, rivers, or swamps.
  • Boil water before drinking especially when you are travelling.
  • Cover any cuts and wear protective clothing, especially footwear, if you must wade in floodwaters or other water that might be contaminated.
  • Talk to your doctor about taking medicine to help prevent leptospirosis.
  • Travelers need to be highly cautious while travelling to foreign places.
  • Drain potentially contaminated waters and soil.

Treatment of Leptospirosis- Allopathic Treatment

Medications used:

  • Severe cases of leptospirosis are treated with high doses of intravenous penicillin.
  • Less severe cases are treated with oral antibiotics such as amoxicillin, ampicillin, doxycycline or erythromycin.
  • Third-generation cephalosporins, such as ceftriaxone and cefotaxime, and quinolone antibiotics also appear to be effective in treating mild cases of leptospirosis.
  • Antibiotics (penicillin, doxycycline, ibuprofen for fever and muscle pain)
  • In case of severe infection, antibiotics are given intravenously.
Also Read - Lower Respiratory Tract Infection Treatment 

Treatment of Leptospirosis- Homeopathic Treatment

Smilax- It reduces fever and swelling, an ideal property in the fight against leptospirosis.

Leptospirosis – Lifestyle Tips

  • Wash hands with soap and water after handling animals or animal products.
  • Clean and cover any wound.
  • Wear protective clothing and do not roam around barefoot.
  • If you’ve been in potentially infected water, shower as soon as possible.
  • Get your dog vaccinated against leptospirosis.

What are the recommended exercises for a person with Leptospirosis?

No specific exercise has been recommended for leptospirosis patients.

Leptospirosis & pregnancy- Things to know

Only a few cases have been reported where leptospirosis during pregnancy have lead to fetal death, abortion, stillbirth or congenital leptospirosis.

Common complications related to Leptospirosis

  • Infectious-toxic shock
  • Acute renal-hepatic failure
  • Massive hemorrhagic syndrome
  • Infectious myocarditis
  • Pulmonary haemorrhage

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