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J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2003 May 1;222(9):1230-3.

Comparison of polymerase chain reaction assay, bacteriologic culture, and serologic testing in assessment of prevalence of urinary shedding of leptospires in dogs.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506-5701, USA.



To compare results of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing of urine samples, serologic testing, and bacteriologic culture of urine to determine prevalence of urinary shedding of leptospires in dogs.


Serial case study.


500 dogs evaluated serially without regard to health status.


Urine samples were examined via PCR assay and bacteriologic culture for leptospires. Blood samples were analyzed for antibodies against serovars canicola, bratislava, pomona, icterohemorrhagiae, grippotyphosa, and hardjo.


Titers > or = 1:100 against at least 1 serovar were detected in 104 (20.8%) dogs, and titers > or = 1:400 were detected in 41 (8.2%) dogs. High titers were detected most commonly to serovar grippotyphosa, followed by icterohemorrhagiae, canicola, pomona, bratislava, and hardjo. High titers to > 1 serovar were detected in 14 dogs. A positive PCR assay result was obtained in 41 (8.2%) dogs, only 9 of which had a titer > or = 1:100. Leptospires were not cultured from the urine of any dog. Only 4 dogs had clinical leptospirosis. Overall disease prevalence was 0.8% for the 6-month evaluation period. Compared with PCR assay, serologic testing for predicting shedding had a sensitivity of 22%, specificity of 79%, positive predictive value of 9%, and negative predictive value of 92%.


Irrespective of health status, 8.2% of dogs were shedding pathogenic leptospires. Serologic testing was a poor predictor of urinary shedding. Clinically normal dogs that shed leptospires may pose a zoonotic risk to their owners.

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