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26-07-2007 - Changes seen in pathogen’s ability to survive outside a host. The bacterium that causes leptospirosis, one of the most widespread infections transmitted between animals and humans, appears to be changing in ways that could limit its ability to survive and thrive.

Research suggests that Leptospira borgpetersenii serovar Hardjo, which commonly infects cattle, is losing its capacity to live in water and is evolving towards a strict host-to-host transmission cycle.

People and animals can be infected with Leptospira when exposed to water contaminated with urine from infected animals, or by direct contact with bodily fluids or tissue from infected animals. Pregnant cows infected with serovar Hardjo may experience abortion or stillbirth, or give birth to weakened offspring. Infected humans can develop flulike symptoms or—in more severe cases—may die.

Worldwide, most cases of bovine leptospirosis are due to infection by L. borgpetersenii, but both L. borgpetersenii and L. interrogans transmit leptospirosis among cattle in North America. Many Leptospira strains, including L. interrogans, can be transmitted through surface water.

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