Leptospira spp. in Rodents and Shrews in Germany
Leptospirosis is an acute, febrile disease occurring in humans and animals worldwide. Leptospira spp. are usually transmitted through direct or indirect contact with the urine of infected reservoir animals. Among wildlife species, rodents act as the most important reservoir for both human and animal infection. To gain a better understanding of the occurrence and distribution of pathogenic leptospires in rodent and shrew populations in Germany, kidney specimens of 2973 animals from 11 of the 16 federal states were examined by PCR. Rodent species captured included five murine species (family Muridae), six vole species (family Cricetidae) and six shrew species (family Soricidae). The most abundantly trapped animals were representatives of the rodent species Apodemus flavicollis, Clethrionomys glareolus and Microtus agrestis. Leptospiral DNA was amplified in 10% of all animals originating from eight of the 11 federal states. The highest carrier rate was found in Microtus spp. (13%), followed by Apodemus spp. (11%) and Clethrionomys spp. (6%). The most common Leptospira genomospecies determined by duplex PCR was L. kirschneri, followed by L. interrogans and L. borgpetersenii; all identified by single locus sequence typing (SLST). Representatives of the shrew species were also carriers of Leptospira spp. In 20% of Crocidura spp. and 6% of the Sorex spp. leptospiral DNA was detected. Here, only the pathogenic genomospecies L. kirschneri was identified.