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L. interrogans

Leptospira in capybaras of western Amazonia

CDC/Rob Weyant More than 40% of the animals examined had antibodies against bacteria that cause leptospirosisCDC/Rob Weyant

Capybaras (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) of western Amazonia are chronically infected with bacteria of the genus Leptospira, particularly L. interrogans, and may act as asymptomatic reservoirs of the pathogen in rural or semi-urban areas. These were the findings of a study conducted by veterinarians from the Federal University of Acre (UFAC) and Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF), who conducted blood and urine tests on 41 animals captured in areas near the Acre State capital of Rio Branco and found high rates of the bacterial infection (Acta Tropica, May 2017). In 43.9% of the rodents, the immune response was positive for Leptospira, but few antibodies were present—an indication that the animals were probably chronically infected with the bacteria. In the urine tests, nearly one-third of the capybaras—the world’s largest rodents—showed signs of the pathogen. In humans, leptospirosis causes yellow fever, malaise and muscle pain (myalgia). In severe cases, it can lead to death. It is transmitted to humans through contact with the contaminated urine of rodents, particularly during floods. In cities, the disease is mainly transmitted by urban rats.