Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease which has emerged as a major cause of morbidity and mortality among impoverished populations. One centenary after the discovery of the causative spirochaetal agent, little is understood of Leptospira pathogenesis, which in turn has hampered the identification of new intervention strategies to address this neglected disease. However the recent availability of complete genome sequences for Leptospira and discovery of genetic tools to transform the pathogen has led to major insights into the biology and pathogenesis of this pathogen. We discuss the life cycle of the bacterium and the new advances that have been made and their implications for the future prevention of this disease.
This study describes the serotype distribution and antibiotic resistance patterns among 397 S. pneumoniae meningitis case isolates recovered in Salvador, Brazil, during the period of 2000-2007, before introduction of the 10-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.
The active hospital-based surveillance showed a decline in the annual incidence rates of pneumococcal meningitis during the period of study, from 1.12 cases to 0.83 cases/100,000 persons for all age groups (P <0.001), with an overall case-fatality rate of 28.6 % (113 of 395) for all patients and 41.9% (57 of 136) for those <5 years of age. Serotypes 14 (n= 55; 13.9%), 3 (n= 32; 8.1 %), 23F (n=32; 8.1 %), 19F (n=31; 7.8%), 6B (n=30; 7.6%), 18C (n=28; 7.1 %), and 6A (n=20; 5%) were the most prevalent serotypes. In patients < 5 years the estimated projected coverage of 7-, 10- and 13-valent conjugate vaccines was 74.3%, 75.7% and 83.1%, respectively. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing revealed that 22.1% (n=88) of isolates were non-susceptible to penicillin, 56% were non-susceptible to trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, and 29.6% were non-susceptible to tetracycline. Nonsusceptibility to penicillin and cefotaxime was detected solely among serotype 14 isolates (n=4; 1%). This study provides an important baseline to assess the impact of conjugate vaccine implantation on the epidemiology of meningitis due to Streptococcus pneumoniae in Salvador, Brazil.
Streptococcus pneumoniae; Vaccine; Antimicrobial resistance; Meningitis; Children
Following introduction of Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) conjugate vaccines, meningitis caused by serotypes other than Hib has gained importance. We conducted active hospital-based surveillance for meningitis over an 11-year period in Salvador, Brazil. H. influenzae isolates were serotyped and analyzed by PCR, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and DNA sequencing to identify strains with a specific deletion (IS1016) in the bexA gene (IS1016-bexA). We identified 43 meningitis cases caused by non-type b H. influenzae: 28 (65%) were caused by type a (Hia), 9 (21%) by non-capsulated strains and 3 (7%) each by types e and f. Hia isolates clustered in two clonal groups; clonal group A strains (n=9) had the IS1016-bexA deletion. Among children <5 years, meningitis caused by Hia from clonal group A had higher case-fatality than clonal group B. Despite small numbers, these results indicate that the presence of IS1016-bexA deletion is associated with enhanced virulence in non-type b H. influenzae.
Haemophilus influenzae; non-type b H. influenzae; meningitis; Hib conjugate vaccine; virulence; IS1016-bexA deletion; molecular epidemiology
In comparison to other bacterial pathogens, our knowledge of the molecular basis of the pathogenesis of leptospirosis is extremely limited. An improved understanding of leptospiral pathogenetic mechanisms requires reliable tools for functional genetic analysis. Leptospiral immunoglobulin-like (Lig) proteins are surface proteins found in pathogenic Leptospira, but not in saprophytes. Here, we describe a system for heterologous expression of the Leptospira interrogans genes ligA and ligB in the saprophyte Leptospira biflexa serovar Patoc.
The genes encoding LigA and LigB under the control of a constitutive spirochaetal promoter were inserted into the L. biflexa replicative plasmid. We were able to demonstrate expression and surface localization of LigA and LigB in L. biflexa. We found that the expression of the lig genes significantly enhanced the ability of transformed L. biflexa to adhere in vitro to extracellular matrix components and cultured cells, suggesting the involvement of Lig proteins in cell adhesion.
This work reports a complete description of the system we have developed for heterologous expression of pathogen-specific proteins in the saprophytic L. biflexa. We show that expression of LigA and LigB proteins from the pathogen confers a virulence-associated phenotype on L. biflexa, namely adhesion to eukaryotic cells and fibronectin in vitro. This study indicates that L. biflexa can serve as a surrogate host to characterize the role of key virulence factors of the causative agent of leptospirosis.
In Brazil, Brazilian spotted fever was once considered the only tick-borne rickettsial disease. We report eschar-associated rickettsial disease that occurred after a tick bite. The etiologic agent is most related to Rickettsia parkeri, R. africae, and R. sibirica and probably widely distributed from São Paulo to Bahia in the Atlantic Forest.
Spotted fever group rickettsiosis; rickettsia; eschar; multiple-locus sequence analysis; ticks; molecular diagnosis; dispatch
The purpose of this study was to perform a 16S sequence-based quality control of two Leptospira strain collections. 16S rRNA gene sequencing was used to verify two Leptospira reference collections provided by the World Health Organization and maintained at a reference laboratory for leptospirosis in Brazil. Among the 89 serovars evaluated, four conflicting strains were identified in one of the collections. Although 16S rRNA gene sequencing cannot identify Leptospira beyond the species level, it is suitable for the identification of contamination and quality control of leptospiral reference collections. This study highlights the importance of the availability of high-quality 16S rRNA sequences in public databases. In addition, it emphasizes the need for periodical verifications and quality control of Leptospira reference collections.
Leptospirosis is a widespread zoonotic infection that primarily affects residents of tropical regions, but causes infections in animals and humans in temperate regions as well. The agents of leptospirosis comprise several members of the genus Leptospira, which also includes non-pathogenic, saprophytic species. Leptospirosis can vary in severity from a mild, non-specific illness to severe disease that includes multi-organ failure and widespread endothelial damage and hemorrhage. To begin to investigate how pathogenic leptospires affect endothelial cells, we compared the responses of two endothelial cell lines to infection by pathogenic versus non-pathogenic leptospires. Microarray analyses suggested that pathogenic L. interrogans and non-pathogenic L. biflexa triggered changes in expression of genes whose products are involved in cellular architecture and interactions with the matrix, but that the changes were in opposite directions, with infection by L. biflexa primarily predicted to increase or maintain cell layer integrity, while L. interrogans lead primarily to changes predicted to disrupt cell layer integrity. Neither bacterial strain caused necrosis or apoptosis of the cells even after prolonged incubation. The pathogenic L. interrogans, however, did result in significant disruption of endothelial cell layers as assessed by microscopy and the ability of the bacteria to cross the cell layers. This disruption of endothelial layer integrity was abrogated by addition of the endothelial protective drug lisinopril at physiologically relevant concentrations. These results suggest that, through adhesion of L. interrogans to endothelial cells, the bacteria may disrupt endothelial barrier function, promoting dissemination of the bacteria and contributing to severe disease manifestations. In addition, supplementing antibiotic therapy with lisinopril or derivatives with endothelial protective activities may decrease the severity of leptospirosis.
Leptospirosis is a widespread zoonotic infection that primarily affects residents of tropical regions, but is seen occasionally in temperate regions as well. Leptospirosis can vary in severity from a mild, non-specific illness to severe disease that includes multi-organ failure and widespread endothelial damage and hemorrhage. To investigate how pathogenic leptospires affect endothelial cells, we compared the responses of two endothelial cell lines to infection by pathogenic versus non-pathogenic leptospires. Our analyses suggested that pathogenic L. interrogans and non-pathogenic L. biflexa caused changes in expression of genes whose products are involved in cellular architecture and interactions with the matrix, but that the changes were in opposite directions, with infection by L. biflexa primarily maintaining cell layer integrity, while L. interrogans disrupted cell layers. In fact, L. interrogans caused significant disruption of endothelial cell layers, but this damage could be abrogated by the endothelial protective drug lisinopril. Our results suggest that L. interrogans binds to endothelial cells and disrupts endothelial barrier function, which may promote dissemination of the bacteria and contribute to severe disease manifestations. This disruption may be slowed by endothelial-protective drugs to decrease damage in leptospirosis.
In determining the efficacy of new vaccine candidates for leptospirosis, the primary end point is death and an important secondary end point is sterilizing immunity. However, evaluation of this end point is often hampered by the time-consuming demands and complexity of methods such as culture isolation (CI). In this study, we evaluated the use of an imprint (or touch preparation) method (IM) in detecting the presence of leptospires in tissues of hamsters infected with Leptospira interrogans serovar Copenhageni. In a dissemination study, compared to CI, the IM led to equal or improved detection of leptospires in kidney, liver, lung and blood samples collected post-infection and overall concordance was good (κ=0.61). Furthermore, in an evaluation of hamsters immunized with a recombinant leptospiral protein-based vaccine candidate and subsequently challenged, the agreement between the CI and IM was very good (κ=0.84). These findings indicate that the IM is a rapid method for the direct observation of Leptospira spp. that can be readily applied to evaluating infection in experimental animals and determining sterilizing immunity when screening potential vaccine candidates.
The newly described Streptococcus pneumoniae serotype 6C accounted for 2.3% (16/709) of meningitis cases and 3.2% (3/95) of nasopharyngeal isolates from healthy individuals in Brazil. The strains were multidrug resistant (18.8%) and genetically diverse. Despite low serotype 6C prevalence, continuous surveillance is necessary to guide vaccine strategies.
Streptococcus pneumoniae; serotype 6C; epidemiology; meningitis; carriage
The family of leptospiral immunoglobulin-like (lig) genes comprises ligA, ligB and ligC. This study used PCR to demonstrate the presence of lig genes among serovars from a collection of leptospiral strains and clinical isolates. Whilst ligA and ligC appeared to be present in a limited number of pathogenic serovars, the ligB gene was distributed ubiquitously among all pathogenic strains. None of the lig genes were detected among intermediate or saprophytic Leptospira species. It was also shown that, similar to the previously characterized secY gene, a short specific PCR fragment of ligB could be used to correctly identify pathogenic Leptospira species. These findings demonstrate that ligB is widely present among pathogenic strains and may be useful for their reliable identification and classification.
Recent serologic, immunoprotection, and pathogenesis studies identified the Lig proteins as key virulence determinants in interactions of leptospiral pathogens with the mammalian host. We examined the sequence variation and recombination patterns of ligA, ligB, and ligC among 10 pathogenic strains from five Leptospira species. All strains were found to have intact ligB genes and genetic drift accounting for most of the ligB genetic diversity observed. The ligA gene was found exclusively in L. interrogans and L. kirschneri strains, and was created from ligB by a two-step partial gene duplication process. The aminoterminal domain of LigB and the LigA paralog were essentially identical (98.5 ± 0.8% mean identity) in strains with both genes. Like ligB, ligC gene variation also followed phylogenetic patterns, suggesting an early gene duplication event. However, ligC is a pseudogene in several strains, suggesting that LigC is not essential for virulence. Two ligB genes and one ligC gene had mosaic compositions and evidence for recombination events between related Leptospira species was also found for some ligA genes. In conclusion, the results presented here indicate that Lig diversity has important ramifications for the selection of Lig polypeptides for use in diagnosis and as vaccine candidates. This sequence information will aid the identification of highly conserved regions within the Lig proteins and improve upon the performance characteristics of the Lig proteins in diagnostic assays and in subunit vaccine formulations with the potential to confer heterologous protection.
Leptospirosis; Lig; Pathogenesis; Molecular evolution; Sequence analysis
A survey was conducted to identify reservoirs for urban leptospirosis in the city of Salvador, Brazil. Sampling protocols were performed in the vicinity of households of severe leptospirosis cases identified during active hospital-based surveillance. Among a total of 142 captured Rattus norvegicus (Norwegian brown rat), 80.3% had a positive culture isolate from urine or kidney specimens and 68.1% had a positive serum sample by microscopic agglutination test (MAT) titre of ≥1:100. Monoclonal antibody-based typing of isolates identified that the agent carried by rats was L. interrogans serovar Copenhageni, which was the same serovar isolated from patients during hospital-based surveillance. Leptospira spp. were not isolated from 8 captured Didelphis marsupialis (Opossum), while 5/7 had a positive MAT titre against a saprophytic serogroup. R. rattus were not captured during the survey. The study findings indicate that the brown rat is a major rodent reservoir for leptospirosis in this urban setting. Furthermore, the high carriage rates of L. interrogans serovar Copenhageni in captured rats suggest that there is a significant degree of environmental contamination with this agent in the household environment of high risk areas, which in turn is a cause of transmission during urban epidemics.
Leptospira; Leptospirosis; Rats; Poverty Areas
Leptospira interrogans is responsible for leptospirosis, a zoonosis of worldwide distribution. LipL32 is the major outer membrane protein of pathogenic leptospires, accounting for up to 75% of total outer membrane protein. In recent times LipL32 has become the focus of intense study because of its surface location, dominance in the host immune response, and conservation among pathogenic species. In this study, an lipL32 mutant was constructed in L. interrogans using transposon mutagenesis. The lipL32 mutant had normal morphology and growth rate compared to the wild type and was equally adherent to extracellular matrix. Protein composition of the cell membranes was found to be largely unaffected by the loss of LipL32, with no obvious compensatory increase in other proteins. Microarray studies found no obvious stress response or upregulation of genes that may compensate for the loss of LipL32 but did suggest an association between LipL32 and the synthesis of heme and vitamin B12. When hamsters were inoculated by systemic and mucosal routes, the mutant caused acute severe disease manifestations that were indistinguishable from wild-type L. interrogans infection. In the rat model of chronic infection, the LipL32 mutant colonized the renal tubules as efficiently as the wild-type strain. In conclusion, this study showed that LipL32 does not play a role in either the acute or chronic models of infection. Considering the abundance and conservation of LipL32 among all pathogenic Leptospira spp. and its absence in saprophytic Leptospira, this finding is remarkable. The role of this protein in leptospiral biology and pathogenesis thus remains elusive.
Inhabitants of slum settlements represent a significant proportion of the population at risk for pneumococcal disease in developing countries.
We conducted a household survey of pneumococcal carriage among residents of a slum community in the city of Salvador, Brazil.
Among 262 subjects, 95 (36%) were colonized with S. pneumoniae. Children <5 years of age (OR, 8.0; 95%CI, 3.5-18.6) and those who attended schools (OR 2.7, 95%CI, 1.2-6.0) had significantly higher risk of being colonized. Of 94 isolates obtained from colonized individuals, 51% had serotypes included in the seven-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. Overall, 10% (9 of 94 isolates) were nonsusceptible to penicillin and 28% (27 of 94 isolates) were resistant to cotrimoxazole. BOX-PCR, PFGE and MLST analysis found that 44% of the carriage isolates belonged to 14 distinct clonal groups. Strains of the same clonal group were isolated from multiple members of 9 out of the 39 study households. Nineteen carriage isolates had genotypes that were the same as those identified among 362 strains obtained from active surveillance for meningitis.
The study's findings indicate that there is significant intra and inter-household spread of S. pneumoniae in the slum community setting. However, a limited number of clones encountered during carriage among slum residents were found to cause invasive disease.
Streptococcus pneumoniae; nasopharyngeal carriage; pneumococcal conjugate vaccines; antibiotic resistance; urban slums
Leptospira interrogans is the most common cause of leptospirosis in humans and animals. Genetic analysis of L. interrogans has been severely hindered by a lack of tools for genetic manipulation. Recently we developed the mariner-based transposon Himar1 to generate the first defined mutants in L. interrogans. In this study, a total of 929 independent transposon mutants were obtained and the location of insertion determined. Of these mutants, 721 were located in the protein coding regions of 551 different genes. While sequence analysis of transposon insertion sites indicated that transposition occurred in an essentially random fashion in the genome, 25 unique transposon mutants were found to exhibit insertions into genes encoding 16S or 23S rRNAs, suggesting these genes are insertional hot spots in the L. interrogans genome. In contrast, loci containing notionally essential genes involved in lipopolysaccharide and heme biosynthesis showed few transposon insertions. The effect of gene disruption on the virulence of a selected set of defined mutants was investigated using the hamster model of leptospirosis. Two attenuated mutants with disruptions in hypothetical genes were identified, thus validating the use of transposon mutagenesis for the identification of novel virulence factors in L. interrogans. This library provides a valuable resource for the study of gene function in L. interrogans. Combined with the genome sequences of L. interrogans, this provides an opportunity to investigate genes that contribute to pathogenesis and will provide a better understanding of the biology of L. interrogans.
Effort has been made to identify protective antigens in order to develop a recombinant vaccine against leptospirosis. Several attempts failed to conclusively demonstrate efficacy of vaccine candidates due to the lack of an appropriate model of lethal leptospirosis. The purposes of our study were: (i) to test the virulence of leptospiral isolates from Brazil, which are representative of important serogroups that cause disease in humans and animals; and (ii) to standardize the lethal dose 50% (LD50) for each of the virulent strains using a hamster (Mesocricetus auratus) model. Five of seven Brazilian isolates induced lethality in a hamster model, with inocula lower than 200 leptospires. Histopathological examination of infected animals showed typical lesions found in both natural and experimental leptospirosis. Results described here demonstrated the potential use of Brazilian isolates as highly virulent strains in challenge experiments using hamster as an appropriate animal model for leptospirosis. Furthermore these strains may be useful in heterologous challenge studies which aim to evaluate cross-protective responses induced by subunit vaccine candidates.
Leptospira; leptospirosis; lethal dose; isolation; animal model; virulence
The pathogenic mechanisms of Leptospira interrogans, the causal agent of leptospirosis, remain largely unknown. This is mainly due to the lack of tools for genetically manipulating pathogenic Leptospira species. Thus, homologous recombination between introduced DNA and the corresponding chromosomal locus has never been demonstrated for this pathogen. Leptospiral immunoglobulin-like repeat (Lig) proteins were previously identified as putative Leptospira virulence factors. In this study, a ligB mutant was constructed by allelic exchange in L. interrogans; in this mutant a spectinomycin resistance (Spcr) gene replaced a portion of the ligB coding sequence. Gene disruption was confirmed by PCR, immunoblot analysis, and immunofluorescence studies. The ligB mutant did not show decrease virulence compared to the wild-type strain in the hamster model of leptospirosis. In addition, inoculation of rats with the ligB mutant induced persistent colonization of the kidneys. Finally, LigB was not required to mediate bacterial adherence to cultured cells. Taken together, our data provide the first evidence of site-directed homologous recombination in pathogenic Leptospira species. Furthermore, our data suggest that LigB does not play a major role in dissemination of the pathogen in the host and in the development of acute disease manifestations or persistent renal colonization.
Zoonoses; Leptospira noguchii; leptospirosis; isolation; taxonomy; letter
Ecological systems with threshold behaviour show drastic shifts in population abundance or species diversity in response to small variation in critical parameters. Examples of threshold behaviour arise in resource competition theory, epidemiological theory and environmentally driven population dynamics, to name a few. Although expected from theory, thresholds may be difficult to detect in real datasets due to stochasticity, finite population size and confounding effects that soften the observed shifts and introduce variability in the data. Here, we propose a modelling framework for threshold responses to environmental drivers that allows for a flexible treatment of the transition between regimes, including variation in the sharpness of the transition and the variance of the response. The model assumes two underlying stochastic processes whose mixture determines the system's response. For environmentally driven systems, the mixture is a function of an environmental covariate and the response may exhibit strong nonlinearity. When applied to two datasets for water-borne diseases, the model was able to capture the effect of rainfall on the mean number of cases as well as the variance. A quantitative description of this kind of threshold behaviour is of more general application to predict the response of ecosystems and human health to climate change.
nonlinear; cholera; leptospirosis; seasonality; disease dynamics; extrinsic forcing
This study aimed to describe the clinical, epidemiological and microbiological features of meningococcal meningitis in Salvador, Brazil. Between February 1996 and January 2001, a hospital-based surveillance prospectively identified cases of culture-positive meningococcal meningitis. Demographic and clinical data were collected through interview and medical chart review. Antisera and monoclonal antibodies were used to determine the serogroup and serotype:serosubtype of the isolates, respectively. Surveillance identified a total of 408 cases of meningococcal meningitis, with a case fatality rate of 8% (32/397). The mean annual incidence for the 304 culture-positive cases residing in metropolitan Salvador was 1.71 cases per 100 000 population. Infants <1 year old presented the highest incidence (14.7 cases per 100 000 population). Of the 377 serogrouped isolates, 82%, 16%, 2% and 0.3% were serogroups B, C, W135 and Y, respectively. A single serotype:serosubtype (4,7:P1.19,15) accounted for 64% of all cases. Continued surveillance is necessary to characterise strains and to define future prevention and control strategies.
Meningococcal disease; Meningitis; Neisseria meningitidis; Serogroup; Epidemiology; Brazil
Subunit vaccines are a potential intervention strategy against leptospirosis, which is a major public health problem in developing countries and a veterinary disease in livestock and companion animals worldwide. Leptospiral immunoglobulin-like (Lig) proteins are a family of surface-exposed determinants that have Ig-like repeat domains found in virulence factors such as intimin and invasin. We expressed fragments of the repeat domain regions of LigA and LigB from Leptospira interrogans serovar Copenhageni. Immunization of Golden Syrian hamsters with Lig fragments in Freund’s adjuvant induced robust antibody responses against recombinant protein and native protein, as detected by ELISA and immunoblot, respectively. A single fragment, LigANI, which corresponds to the six carboxy-terminal Ig-like repeat domains of the LigA molecule, conferred immunoprotection against mortality (67-100%, P <0.05) in hamsters which received a lethal inoculum of L. interrogans serovar Copenhageni. However, immunization with this fragment did not confer sterilizing immunity. These findings indicate that the carboxy-terminal portion of LigA is an immunoprotective domain and may serve as a vaccine candidate for human and veterinary leptospirosis.
Leptospirosis; subunit vaccine; Leptospiral immunoglobulin-like protein; recombinant protein; immunity; antibodies; hamsters
Access to low-cost, effective diagnosis for leptospirosis is urgently needed in developing countries. The EIE-IgM-Leptospirose, a kit produced for public health laboratories in Brazil, was shown to have a sensitivity of 76% (77 of 102 patients) and 100% (102 of 102 patients) during acute and convalescent-phase leptospirosis respectively and a specificity of 93%–100% (total healthy and patient control subjects evaluated, 486). These findings indicate that the assay will be useful for diagnosis of this emerging infectious disease in Brazil and other developing countries.
Leptospirosis; IgM ELISA; diagnosis; epidemics; urban; serovar; Leptospira; Copenhageni; Brazil