First Leptospirosis Abortions Reported in England

Diagnostic pathologists at the Animal Health Trust (AHT), Newmarket recently published the first report of equine abortions in England caused by leptospirosis.

Although horses in the UK have been exposed to Leptospira organisms, veterinarians there have not seen a lot of illness caused by the bacterium, explained report co-author Katherine Whitwell, BVSc, Dipl. ECVP, FRCVS. The new report is the first proof that the organism is causing equine abortions in the country.

The AHT pathologists looked for the organism while investigating abortions in 2007.

"Our understanding is that Leptospira infection is a rare condition in England," Whitwell said. "Any surge in cases could now be identified-which would be important in the equine disease surveillance of reproductive health in mares."

When mares abort their pregnancies, owners are encouraged to send the aborted materials to diagnostic laboratories to evaluate possible infectious and non-infectious causes in order to determine why the abortion occurred.

Besides sending abortions and stillbirths (including the placenta) to a laboratory for analysis, Whitwell recommended that owners clean and disinfect the area where it occurred to prevent contamination of the mare's environment.

"The veterinary surgeon attending sick or aborting mares is the person best placed to offer advice on screening, treatment and management of mares and in-contact horses immediately after any abortion," she said, adding that a mare that aborted due to leptospirosis should be isolated, as it might be infectious to other horses.

Leptospira can also infect people. Whitwell recommended owners wear disposable gloves when handling aborted materials or urine from known infected mares.

The report, "Two cases of equine pregnancy loss associated with Leptospira infection in England," was published Sept. 26, 2009, in The Veterinary Record. The full text is available to subscribers online.

Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.