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First isolation and genotyping of pathogenic Leptospira spp. from Austria

Leptospirosis is a globally distributed zoonotic disease. The standard serological test, known as Microscopic Agglutination Test (MAT), requires the use of live Leptospira strains. To enhance its sensitivity and specificity, the usage of locally circulating strains is recommended. However, to date, no local strain is available from Austria.

This study aimed to isolate circulating Leptospira strains from cattle in Austria to enhance the performances of the routine serological test for both humans and animals.

We used a statistical approach combined with a comprehensive literature search to profile cattle with greater risk of leptospirosis infection and implemented a targeted sampling between November 2021 and October 2022. Urine and/or kidney tissue were sampled from 410 cattle considered at higher risk of infection. Samples were inoculated into EMJH-STAFF culture media within 2–6 h and a real-time PCR targeting the lipL32 gene was used to confirm the presence/absence of pathogenic Leptospira in each sample. Isolates were further characterised by core genome multilocus sequence typing (cgMLST). Nine out of 429 samples tested positive by PCR, from which three isolates were successfully cultured and identified as Leptospira borgpetersenii serogroup Sejroe serovar Hardjobovis, cgMLST cluster 40.

This is the first report on the isolation and genotyping of local zoonotic Leptospira in Austria, which holds the potential for a significant improvement in diagnostic performance in the country. Although the local strain was identified as a cattle-adapted serovar, it possesses significant zoonotic implications.

Furthermore, this study contributes to a better understanding of the epidemiology of leptospirosis in Europe.


C. Sohm, D. Willixhofer, E. Fasching, K. Waldner, N. Deitzer, J. Steiner, J. Jöbstl, C. Schleicher, M. Schwarz, R. Fuchs, P. Bourhy, A. Käsbohrer, T. Wittek, C. Firth, R. Steinparzer, A. Desvars-Larrive, First isolation and genotyping of pathogenic Leptospira spp. from Austria, Scientific Reports 14 (2024) 4467.

Amelie Desvars-Larrive, Faculty Member at the Complexity Science Hub © Verena Ahne

Amélie Desvars-Larrive

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