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Widespread but neglected disease a health threat in Africa, Virginia Tech researchers say
Date:5/14/2013

The newest public health threat in developing countries may not be a cinematic-quality emerging disease but actually a disease from animals that was identified more than 100 years ago.

Virginia Tech researchers have identified leptospirosis as a significant health threat in Botswana. The world's most common disease transmitted to humans by animals, according to the World Health Organization, leptospirosis is a two-phase disease that begins with flu-like symptoms but can cause meningitis, liver damage, pulmonary hemorrhage, renal failure, and even death if untreated.

"The problem in Botswana and much of Africa is that leptospirosis may remain unidentified in animal populations but contribute importantly to human disease, possibly misdiagnosed as other more iconic endemic diseases such as malaria," said disease ecologist Kathleen Alexander , an associate professor of wildlife in the College of Natural Resources and the Environment.

Under a grant from the National Science Foundation, researchers in Alexander's wildlife health and disease laboratory have identified banded mongoose in Botswana as being infected with Leptospira interrogans, the pathogen that causes leptospirosis.

The animals, although wild, live near humans, sharing scarce water resources and scavenging in human waste. The pathogen can pass to humans through soil or water contaminated with infected urine. Mongoose and other species are consumed as bushmeat, which may also contribute to leptospirosis exposure and infection in humans.

This first published confirmation of leptospirosis in wildlife in Botswana appeared today (May 14, 2013)
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Contact: Lynn Davis
davisl@vt.edu
540-231-6157
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert

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