Leptospirosis in farmed deer in New Zealand : A review

Leptospirosis in farmed deer in New Zealand : A review
Peer reviewed


Current knowledge of leptospirosis in farmed deer in New Zealand is reviewed. Over the past 25 years, leptospirosis has been reported to occur in individual cases as well as in herd outbreaks in farmed deer and in human cases linked to farmed deer. Serological studies and evidence from bacterial culture suggest infection is widespread. Mixing of young stock from several sources appears to be a significant risk factor for outbreaks. The culture of Leptospira interrogans serovars Hardjobovis, Pomona and Copenhageni has been reported. Infection with serovar Hardjobovis had the highest prevalence, either individually or mixed with serovar Pomona. Infection with serovar Copenhageni appears uncommon and its pathogenicity in deer is unproven. Titres to serovars Australis, Ballum, Balcanica and Tarassovi have been reported. Deer appear to be maintenance hosts for serovar Hardjobovis, incidental or accidental hosts and probably a maintenance population for serovar Pomona, since some infections persist for several months, and accidental hosts for serovar Copenhageni.
Serovar Pomona appears to produce clinical and probably subclinical disease, whereas serovar Hardjobovis appears to cause only subclinical disease, although the relative risk of disease causation has not been determined. Clinical disease is usually manifested by haemolysis, jaundice, renal lesions, haemoglobinuria and often by sudden death. Renal lesions are commonly observed at slaughter and many are associated with leptospiral infections. Occupationally, slaughterhouse workers appear to be at greatest risk of contracting the disease from deer. Vaccination produces serological responses, but its effectiveness in protecting against disease, and prevention or reduction of shedding in urine, has not yet been confirmed in deer. More robust knowledge of the epidemiology of leptospiral infections in deer, and the effectiveness of vaccines and vaccination regimes, is needed to assist the deer industry to develop a strategy to manage this disease.
KEY WORDS: Deer, farmed deer, New Zealand, leptospirosis, Leptospira, Pomona, Hardjobovis, Copenhageni, zoonosis, review

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