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#16932 - 01/25/04 01:30 PM Sugar glider link to leptospirosis?

Infection connection links animals, humans

</font><blockquote><font class="small">Quote:</font><hr />
At All Children's Hospital, a boy came in a few years ago with a fever and kidney and liver problems, Dumois said. The boy had symptoms of leptospirosis. The disease, caused by a bacteria that can infect several animals, is the most widespread animal-borne disease in the world.

Yet leptospirosis is rare in the continental United States, with only about 50 to 100 cases per year. Dumois had never seen a patient with the disease.

But the family had recently gotten a new pet -- a sugar glider, a type of gliding possum native to Australia. Dumois believes that's how the boy, who recovered, contracted the disease.

<hr /></blockquote><font class="post">

#16933 - 01/25/04 01:34 PM Re: Sugar glider link to leptospirosis? [Re: ]

[:"CC6699"]Oh man, and things looked bad for sugar gliders before... <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/shakehead.gif" alt="" /> [/]

#16934 - 01/25/04 01:38 PM Re: Sugar glider link to leptospirosis? [Re: ]

Is there any way to test for this?

#16935 - 01/25/04 02:01 PM Re: Sugar glider link to leptospirosis? [Re: ]

This was mentioned by Dr. Cianciolo in one of the SunCoast GliderVet Newsletters. Dr. C. talks about several zoonotic diseases associated with sugar gliders.

Here is the [:"red"]LINK[/] to that issue of GliderVet. The article is at the bottom of the page.

#16936 - 01/25/04 04:19 PM Re: Sugar glider link to leptospirosis? [Re: ]

I've read Dr. C's article and while what she states is true, the article is brief and does not tell the whole story. Here is a direct quote from her article:

</font><blockquote><font class="small">Quote:</font><hr />
Leptospirosis is a bacteria which may be found in dogs, cattle, swine, rodents, birds and marsupials, such as sugar gliders

<hr /></blockquote><font class="post">.

What the article does not address is how these animals contract this bacterial disease. Animals usually contract leptospirosis by exposure to water contaminated with the urine of infected animals[/b]. Additionally, animals and humans can also become infected through contact with water, food, or soil containing urine from these infected animals . Some examples would be:

1) swallowing contaminated food or water.

2) through skin contact, especially with mucosal surfaces, such as the eyes or nose, or with broken skin.

While leptospirosis occurs worldwide, it is more common in temperate or tropical climates . The boy who was diagnosed/treated for leptospirosis at All Childrens Hospital in St. Petereburg, Florida was from Florida which has such a climate. In fact, according to Judith Green-McKenzie, MD,

</font><blockquote><font class="small">Quote:</font><hr />
the majority of cases occur during the warm season and in rural areas because leptospires can persist in water for many months. They survive best in fresh water, damp alkaline soil, vegetation, and mud with temperatures higher than 22 degrees centigrade.

<hr /></blockquote><font class="post">

See her detailed article on leptospirosis HERE

In summary, rather than just blame the boy's contracture of leptospirosis on a new pet, the doctors at the hospital should have delved more deeply into other possible ways the boy might have contracted the disease. Why? Because there are many other sources for being contaminated with leptospirosis. Some of these other sources include:

1) occupational hazard for many people who work outdoors or with animals (i.e. farmers, sewer workers, veterinarians, fish workers, dairy farmers)

2) recreational hazard for campers or those who participate in outdoor sports in contaminated areas as leptospirosis has been associated with swimming, wading, and whitewater rafting in contaminated lakes and rivers.

It also strikes me as odd that no other family members came down with leptospirosis if the pet glider was the carrier because it is rather doubtful the boy was the only person to handle the glider and it is more likely than not, that one of the parents took care of any cage cleaning. So might the boy have contracted leptospirosis by:

1) swimming in a contaminated water hole (there are many of them around in Florida)?

2) participating in some outdoor sport in a contaminated area and having contact with the bacterium via broken skin, or by rubbing his contaminated hands to a mucosal area such as the eyes, nose or mouth?

We'll never know for sure how the boy contracted the leptospirosis. No indication is given that the glider was tested for the disease so no definitive proof exists that the glider was the source. Furthermore, animals can be contaminated with the leptospires for prolonged periods without clinical signs or symptoms due to a symbiotic relationship between the serovar(bacterium) & host(infected animal).

TMarie: Yes! There are tests:

1) the Microscopic Agglutination Test (MAT) for either human or veterinary diagnosis of leptospirosis. While a value of 1:800 or higher is supportive of a positive diagnosis, confirmation is not made until a second antibody level ( called a titer) is run between 2 & 4 weeks and shows a four fold increase.

2) Urine may be submitted for what is called DARKFIELD MICROSCOPY. In this test, a dark background may offset the paler leptospire organisms rendering them visible. This sounds like a good way to make the diagnosis but the problems are:

a) the urine sample must be fresh and most animal hospitals do not have the capability to do dark field microscopy.

b) Leptospires are only shed in urine intermittently.

3) The kidney may be biopsied and special tissue stains may be used to detect leptospire organisms. Obviously this is an invasive procedure.


1) penicillin to stop leptospire reproduction and limit bloodstream infection.

2) tetracycline derivatives to clear leptospires from the kidneys.

3) Since tetracyclines and penicillins are not a good concurrent combination, a combination of a penicilin with a fluroquinolone type antibiotic (such as enrofloxacin) may be used to cover both phases of the infection.

I would urge GC members not to panic with respect to the issue of leptospirosis. In fact, our gliders would most likely be infected with this disease much in the same manner as they would contract giardia or trichomonis: via drinking and/or eatting contaminated food/water or by:

1) being exposed to the disease via another infected animal such as a dog or cat that is allowed outdoors and has contact with our gliders when indoors.

2) being exposed to the disease by a newly acquired infected glider that was not properly quarantined/did not undergo appropriate fecal/bacterial culture testing during quarantine for common diseases such as giardia, trichomonas and leptospirosis (one of the most common bacterial infections of wild and domestic animals).

#16937 - 01/25/04 05:38 PM Re: Sugar glider link to leptospirosis? [Re: ]

<img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/thumb.gif" alt="" />Thanks Glideroo!

#16938 - 06/22/04 03:43 PM Re: Sugar glider link to leptospirosis? [Re: ]

What are the symptoms of leptospirosis in gliders?


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