Continuous Excretion of Leptospira borgpetersenii Ballum in Mice Assessed by Viability Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction

Marie-Estelle Soupé-Gilbert Institut Pasteur International Network, Institut Pasteur in New Caledonia, Leptospirosis Research and Expertise Unit, Nouméa Cedex, New Caledonia;

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Emilie Bierque Institut Pasteur International Network, Institut Pasteur in New Caledonia, Leptospirosis Research and Expertise Unit, Nouméa Cedex, New Caledonia;

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Sophie Geroult Institut Pasteur International Network, Institut Pasteur in New Caledonia, Leptospirosis Research and Expertise Unit, Nouméa Cedex, New Caledonia;

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Magali Teurlai Institut Pasteur International Network, Institut Pasteur in New Caledonia, Epidemiology and Infectious Research and Expertise Unit, Nouméa Cedex, New Caledonia

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Cyrille Goarant Institut Pasteur International Network, Institut Pasteur in New Caledonia, Leptospirosis Research and Expertise Unit, Nouméa Cedex, New Caledonia;

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Rodents are the main reservoir animals of leptospirosis. In this study, we characterized and quantified the urinary excretion dynamics of Leptospira by Mus musculus infected with 2 × 108 virulent Leptospira borgpetersenii serogroup Ballum. Each micturition was collected separately in metabolic cages, at 12 time points from 7 to 117 days post-infection (dpi). We detected Leptospira in all urine samples collected (up to 8 per time point per mouse) proving that Leptospira excretion is continuous with ca. 90% live L. borgpetersenii Ballum, revealed by viability quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Microscopic visualization by Live/Dead fluorescence confirmed this high proportion of live bacteria and demonstrated that L. borgpetersenii Ballum are excreted, at least partly, as bacterial aggregates. We observed two distinct phases in the excretion dynamics, first an increase in Leptospira concentration shed in the urine between 7 and 63 dpi followed by a plateau phase from 63 dpi onward, with up to 3 × 107 Leptospira per mL of urine. These two phases seem to correspond to progressive colonization of renal tubules first, then to stable cell survival and maintenance in kidneys. Therefore, chronically infected adult mice are able to contaminate the environment via urine at each micturition event throughout their lifetime. Because Leptospira excretion reached its maximum 2 months after infection, older rodents have a greater risk of contaminating their surrounding environment.

Author Notes

Address correspondence to Cyrille Goarant, Institut Pasteur International Network, Institut Pasteur in New Caledonia, Leptospirosis Research and Expertise Unit, 11 Avenue Paul Doumer, BP 61, 98845 Nouméa Cedex, New Caledonia. E-mail: cgoarant@pasteur.nc

Financial support: This study was funded by the Institut Pasteur in New Caledonia.

Authors’ addresses: Marie-Estelle Soupé-Gilbert, Emilie Bierque, Sophie Geroult, and Cyrille Goarant, Leptospirosis Research and Expertise Unit, Institut Pasteur de Nouvelle-Calédonie, Nouméa Cedex, New Caledonia, E-mails: msoupe@pasteur.nc, ebierque@pasteur.nc, sophiegeroult@gmail.com, and cgoarant@pasteur.nc. Magali Teurlai, Epidemiology and Infectious Research and Expertise Unit, Institut Pasteur de Nouvelle-Calédonie, Nouméa Cedex, New Caledonia, E-mail: teurlaimag@yahoo.fr.

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