Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals and represents an occupational hazard to veterinarians, abattoir workers, dairy and pig farmers. It is caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira.

The most commonly encountered serovars associated with clinical disease are:

  • Cattle: L hardjo, L pomona
  • Pigs: L pomona, L tarassovi
  • Horses: L pomona
  • Dogs: L copenhageni

Zoonotic infections are usually acquired from the maintenance host for each serovar:

  • Cattle: L hardjo
  • Pigs: L pomona, L tarassovi
  • Rats: L copenhageni

In the maintenance host, infections by these specific serovars are likely to be endemic, whereas serovar infections in non-maintenance hosts are usually associated with sporadic outbreaks of disease. The most common manifestations of leptospirosis is milk drop syndrome/mastitis in cattle and abortion in other species.

In general, culture of tissues, stomach content, foetal fluids, urine or milk is not undertaken, except under specific arrangements with the laboratory.

Diagnosis and tests available


Diagnosis is suggested by serology and confirmed by demonstration of leptospires (PCR, direct microscopic examination of urine or foetal fluids) and/or demonstration of organisms in kidney by histopathology.

Tests available


Sample(s) required

Days of the week test is conducted

Turnaround time1

Direct dark field microscopy

Aborted foetus

Monday to Friday

1 day

Histopathology examination

Fixed tissue

Monday to Friday

Up to 5 days

Leptospira MAT

Clotted blood (red top tube) or aborted foetus

Wednesday and Thursday

Up to 5 days

Leptospira PCR2

PCR performed from culture

Monday to Friday

Up to 5 days

1 Turnaround times are provided as a guide only. For specific information about your submission please contact Customer Service.
2 This test is not NATA accredited.

Specimen requirements

Aborted foetus

  • Whole aborted foetus with membranes
    • Submit chilled

Blood (without anti-coagulant)

  • 10ml of blood (including at least 2 ml of serum) collected into a plain red top tube
    • Submit chilled

Fixed tissue

  • Kidney
    • Submit fixed in neutral buffered formalin at a 10:1 ratio of formalin: tissue