Leptospirosis in the Central African Republic: myth or reality?

This rodent has been trapped by an investigation team of the arboviruses laboratory ©Institut Pasteur de Bangui

Leptospirosis is not well known and may be responsible for some unexplained cases of feverish sores in the Central African Republic.

Despite a favourable local environment, leptospirosis has never been described in the Central African Republic. Leptospirosis, also known as "rat disease", is caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira transmitted by the environment contaminated by the urine of reservoir animals, most often rodents, but also other mammals, especially cattle and sheep. The associated symptoms are not very specific (fever, aches and pains) and of varying intensity. On the other hand, late management of the disease can lead to a risk of sometimes fatal complications due to liver and kidney damage.

It affects about 1 million people worldwide, causing 60,000 deaths, mainly in Global South countries. Flooding and poor health conditions favour leptospirosis epidemics.

A study conducted at the Institut Pasteur in Bangui indicates that leptospirosis may be responsible for some unexplained cases of febrile jaundice in the country. This work was conducted in conjunction with the surveillance of Yellow Fever, whose leptospirosis is a common differential diagnosis. Markers of leptospirosis have been found in patients clinically suspected of Yellow Fever but not confirmed by the laboratory for this virus. It is therefore likely that leptospirosis may occur in the Central African Republic in a more discreet way as this pathology is not or little known to clinicians, multiform and resolves by antibiotics often prescribed "in case".

To date, there are no epidemiological data on the number of deaths in the Central African Republic related to leptospirosis. A complementary study would be necessary to better describe the public health toll of this pathology, the strains of Leptospira encountered and accurately assess their reservoirs in wildlife or domestic animals to adapt its prevention.

This article was published by the Institut Pasteur in Bangui and translated by


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