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INFECTION with Leptospira can cause abortions and stillbirths in domestic cattle, sheep and pigs, as well as in wild animals. It has also been well documented as a cause of abortions in mares in several countries, including the USA, Canada, South America, New Zealand, Australia and some European countries. However, apart from Northern Ireland (Ellis and others 1983, Ellis and O'Brien 1988), leptospirosis has not been positively identified as a cause of equine pregnancy loss in the UK. This short communication describes two cases of pregnancy loss associated with Leptospira infection, which are believed to be the first documented cases in England.
Horses frequently have antibodies to several Leptospira serovars, indicating that they have been exposed, but not necessarily that they are clinically infected (Bernard 1993). In the UK, the most common serovars are Bratislava, Icterohaemorrhagiae, Canicola and Hardjo (Hathaway and others 1981), in many countries, serovars Pomona and Grippotyphosa are also common (Szeredi and Haake 2006).
In 2007, 42 samples of equine fetal kidney (cortex and medulla) were collected during diagnostic postmortem examinations, placed in transport medium and submitted for Leptospira PCR analysis to Veterinary Laboratories Agency — Weybridge. The routine investigations on the fetus and placenta included gross dissection, microbiology and histopathology. Immunohistochemistry for Leptospira was carried out retrospectively on two cases, one that was Leptospira PCR positive and showed unusual fetal lesions (case 1), and one that showed unusual placental lesions (case 2).
For PCR testing, kidney tissue was macerated and boiled, and the DNA was extracted using a Roche MagNA Pure LC instrument. The Leptospira PCR, which was performed on a Roche LightCycler, employs two separate reactions, one to detect DNA from pathogenic leptospires, and the other to check for inhibition of the PCR. Fluorescent probes detect the production of amplicon throughout the PCR …