Genetic diversity of pathogenic leptospires from wild, domestic and captive host species in Portugal

Ana S. Ferreira, Ahmed Ahmed, Teresa Rocha, Maria L. Vieira, Maria das Neves Paiva-Cardoso, João R. Mesquita, Hans van der Linden, Marga Goris, Gertrude Thompson, Rudy A. Hartskeerl, João Inácio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Leptospirosis is a neglected zoonotic disease of worldwide distribution with a significant veterinary and public health impact. It is caused by pathogenic bacteria of the genus Leptospira. The availability of effective tools to accurately identify and type leptospires is of utmost importance for the diagnosis of the disease and for assessing its epidemiology. Several multi-locus sequence typing (MLST) approaches were described for the typing of worldwide isolates of Leptospira but an extensive agreement towards the adoption of a unique consensus scheme for this agent is still lacking. Most genotyped strains originate from Asian and South American countries, with a minority originating from Europe (being most countries represented only by one or a few isolates). The knowledge of the diversity of circulating leptospires is the key to understanding the disease transmission and its zoonotic implications. In this study, we revisited the taxonomy of several isolates of pathogenic Leptospira obtained from domestic, wild and captive animals in Portugal, between 1990 and 2012. A selection of these isolates was genotyped using two previously published MLST schemes. A total of seven distinct sequence types (STs) were detected among the Portuguese isolates with two STs representing L. borgpetersenii (ST149 and ST152), two STs representing L. kirschneri (ST117 and ST100) and three STs representing L. interrogans (ST17, ST24 and ST140). Global widespread (and maybe more virulent) Leptospira genotypes seem to circulate in Portugal, particularly the L. interrogans ST17 isolates which are associated with several outbreaks of leptospirosis among humans and animals in different regions of the world. This study contributes to the enrichment of the global MLST databases with a new set of allele and sequence type information also providing novel data on circulating Leptospira serovars in Portugal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)852-864
Number of pages13
JournalTransboundary and Emerging Diseases
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Blackwell Verlag GmbH


  • captive animals
  • cattle
  • Leptospira; leptospirosis
  • MLST
  • multi-locus sequence typing
  • rodents


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