Leptospirosis: An important infectious disease in North American horses

T. J. Divers, Y. F. Chang, N. L. Irby, J. L. Smith, C. N. Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


North American horses are commonly exposed to Leptospira organisms. Leptospira Bratislava is the most common infecting serovar but this serovar has not been confirmed to cause clinical disease in North American horses. Leptospira Pomona type kennewicki is responsible for most of the clinical diseases (leptospirosis) in North American horses. Leptospirosis is most commonly associated with diseases of the placenta and fetus, the kidneys and the eyes in horses. In-utero infections in pregnant mares may result in abortion, neonatal illness or birth of an antibody positive healthy foal. Acute renal failure in younger horses and recurrent uveitis in adult horses are other well documented clinical syndromes of leptospirosis. Abortions, neonatal disease and acute renal failure are caused by a subacute infection, while horses with Leptospira associated recurrent uveitis develop ocular disease months or years after the initial Leptospira infection. Diagnosis of Leptospirosis is made by a combination of antigen or antibody testing methods. Mares that abort following Leptospira infection have no additional clinical signs at the time of abortion but may shed the offending Leptospira spp. in the urine for several weeks. Antibiotic treatments are sometimes used in hopes of decreasing Leptospira shedding in infected horses or prophylactically in exposed pregnant mares but documentation of efficacy is lacking. Horses with Leptospira - associated acute renal failure can be successfully treated with antibiotics and supportive care. Recurrent uveitis is commonly associated with leptospirosis in North American horses and although horses may have chronic intraocular infection triggering an immune disease, systemic antimicrobial therapy has not been effective in eliminating the organism from the eye. An equine approved Leptospira Pomona type kennewicki vaccine is now available in North America.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-292
Number of pages6
JournalEquine Veterinary Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2019

Bibliographical note

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© 2019 EVJ Ltd


  • horse
  • leptospirosis
  • serovar

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Equine


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