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Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that is caused by the cork-screw bacterium of the genus Leptospira. There are 21 known species, but only 13 of them have been known to cause leptospirosis in people. It is present in a variety of wild and domestic animals, but rats are the most common animal to spread it to humans. These bacteria are located in the urine or in soil or water that has been contaminated with infected urine. This infection is contagious only as long as the urine is still moist, and it gets into an open cut, or the eyes, nose, or mouth.


There are cases where infected people show no symptoms at all, but not all people who become infected are this lucky. Leptospirosis is an infection that is considered to be biphasic, meaning that there are two different, distinct phases. There is an initial incubation period, prior to the first phase, where symptoms will appear after 7 to 12 days. These symptoms include chills, headaches, muscle aches, stomach pain, and red eyes. These symptoms will go away in about a week. Most of the cases of Leptospirosis (90%) will not go past this phase, but rare cases will progress.

After 3 or 4 days of being asymptomatic, the second phase can arise. This severe phase is known as Weil’s disease and it includes symptoms such as high fever jaundice (due to liver damage), kidney failure, internal bleeding, meningitis, encephalitis, and lung infection.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Once a person is infected, the bacterium can be found in the blood and spinal fluid for the first 7 to 10 days. After that, the organism can be found in the kidneys as the body tries to filter it out. Once it has moved to the kidneys, it can be found in fresh urine samples. There are other tests that will diagnose the other symptoms like kidney function, meningitis, and encephalitis.

Once the condition has been diagnosed, the appropriate antibiotics to treat the corresponding severity of the infection. These antibiotics can include penicillin and amoxicillin in the milder cases and cefotaxime or ceftriaxone in the more severe cases. There may be other treatments that are necessary, such as dialysis, for some of the other symptoms that may arise.


The best form of treatment is to keep rodents out of the house or away from sources of water that could expose people to the bacteria. If a rodent infestation is suspected or has been confirmed, roof rats need to be removed as soon as possible. They also need to be kept from coming back in with the proper, professional exclusion plan.

Once they have been removed, the mess that they left behind is going to need to be cleaned up. This will need to be done so that the urine, droppings, and nesting materials are not left in the home spreading other diseases as well. It is imperative that the mess is cleaned up properly using gloves, masks, and disinfectant cleaner or a bleach and water mixture. It can be a great idea to contact a professional to make sure that these processes are carried out properly and no areas or oversights are missed.

Other Rat Associated Diseases