Examining urine using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR ) technique is more reliable than serology for identifying horses infected with leptospirosis, according to scientists in Brazil.
Leptospirosis can cause various clinical signs, including abortion, uveitis, and kidney and liver disease. Sub-clinical infections also occur, in which infected horses show no signs, but carry and excrete the organism.
In a letter to the Veterinary Record, Hamond and others report the findings of a study that assessed the relative merits of serology and urine PCR for detecting Leptospira infection in horses.
Their research looked at four herds in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Previous cases of leptospirosis had been recorded in the herds, and none of the horses had been vaccinated against the disease.
Blood and urine samples were collected from all adult horses (144). Leptospira antibodies were found in 66 horses, and 89 horses had Leptospira DNA in the urine.
Over half of the Leptospira-positive urine samples came from horses with no Leptospira antibodies in the blood.
The authors conclude that in horses, “serology is a useful tool for detecting leptospirosis on a herd basis, but individual detection of Leptospira species carriers must rely on PCR.”
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