Leptospirosis in cattle in Lower Austria


Together with the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, we collect data on the spread of leptospirosis in Lower Austria. Disease outbreaks and detections in humans and animals indicate that leptospirosis is an increasing public health problem.

Project description

Leptospirosis is an infectious disease that occurs worldwide, mainly in humid and warm regions of the world. Due to climate change, this disease may also become a major problem in Austria. Almost all mammals can contract leptospirosis. The disease can also be transmitted between animals and humans and is therefore a zoonotic disease. The bacteria are often transmitted via rodents. They excrete the bacteria in their urine, which is then absorbed by other animals or humans via skin lesions or mucous membranes. The disease causes mild to very severe symptoms in animals and humans. In humans, this disease can lead to fever, kidney or liver damage and, in severe cases, even death.

In cattle, leptospirosis can lead to miscarriages, reduced fertility or reduced milk production. The project aims to gain knowledge about this disease in cattle. In Lower Austria, outbreaks of the disease and evidence in humans and animals indicate that leptospirosis is an increasing public health problem. However, data on the spread of leptospirosis in Lower Austria is scarce.

The aim of the project is to isolate leptospires in cattle and thereby improve diagnostics. For this purpose, kidney pieces and urine samples from cattle from Lower Austrian farms with an increased incidence of miscarriages were analysed. As the bacteria often die on the way when the urine is sent in, a mobile laboratory was set up. This laboratory travels directly to the affected farm and analyses the urine samples on site.

The pathogens that cause leptospirosis are divided into several hundred subgroups, known as serovars, which can be distinguished by proteins on the surface of the bacteria. For successful antibody diagnostics, it is important to analyse samples with regionally occurring serovars. In order to identify risk factors for an infection, laboratory results from the past were analysed and a literature search was carried out.


Three pathogenic strains of leptospirosis(L. borgpetersenii, serogroup Sejroe, serovar Hardjobovis) were isolated from cattle and characterised by sequencing, and risk factors for leptospirosis in cattle were identified.

Benefits of the project

Information was obtained on leptospira serovars occurring in Austria. These are the first Austrian isolates from cattle. After cultivation in pure culture, these serovars can be used for antibody diagnostics and thus the test results can be specifically adapted to the regionally occurring serovars.

Project details

Project title: Leptospirosis in cattle in Lower Austria

Project acronym: LORN

Project management: University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna

Project management AGES: Dr med. vet. Romana Steinparzer and Priv.-Doz. Dr Georg Duscher

Project partner: University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna

Funding: FTI-CALL, Office of the Provincial Government of Lower Austria

Projektlaufzeit: 06/2020-02/2024

Further information

In addition to this project, rodents found dead, such as mice, are currently being analysed for leptospires and attempts are being made to isolate leptospires as part of a citizen science project. The aim is to gain further knowledge about the occurrence of leptospires in Austria, especially in rodents, which are considered the main vectors and reservoirs for leptospires.

To date, four pathogenic leptospiral strains have already been isolated and sequenced.

Project website LORN

Last updated: 18.04.2024

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