Consultant laboratory for Leptospira

Leptospirosis is a bacterial zoonosis of global distribution caused by spirochetes of the genus Leptospira. Pathogenic Leptospira infect a wide range of mammals including humans and animal species such as pigs, cattle, horses and dogs, although epidemiological studies have shown that rodents and other small mammals are the most common reservoirs. The main routes of infection are through direct contact with infected animals or indirectly via contact with water or soil contaminated with urine from infected animals.

In recent years, the annual number of recorded human leptospirosis cases in Germany ranged between 20 and more than 150 cases. Due to unspecific disease symptoms underreporting is expected. The spectrum of human disease symptoms is variable and can range from subclinical infections to severe signs of multi-organ dysfunction. In the developed world, sporadic human leptospirosis cases are associated with occupational, but also recreational (e.g. water sports, travel abroad) and residential exposure (e.g. gardening, keeping pets). Occupations such as meat workers, sewage workers, veterinarians and field workers are at a higher risk of exposure. 

In Germany, human leptospirosis is a notifiable disease (German protection against infection act) and a reportable disease for pigs and sheep (German regulation on reportable diseases). Currently, vaccines are only available for dogs and cattle. For the protection of both canine and human health, regular vaccination of dogs against leptospirosis is recommended.

The main tasks of the consultant laboratory are to

  • provide guidance on questions relating to pathogen detection and typing
  • perform direct and indirect pathogen detection methods from human and animal samples (microagglutination test, ELISA, PCR, isolation)
  • perform strain typing by PCR-based methods and subsequent sequencing
  • provide assistance on sample requirements and shipping conditions
  • establish and validate new diagnostic methods
  • perform research for a better understanding of the occurrence of Leptospira in humans and reservoir hosts

Consultations on questions relating to the course and epidemiology of disease as well as outbreak investigations are carried out by the Robert Koch Institute.



Contact person:
Dr. Martin Richter (Head of)




Contact person:
Dr. Annette Johne



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