Saturday, 12 January 2013

Studying Rodents' Habitats to Prevent Leptospirosis

Jan. 7, 2013 — Leptospirosis is a water-related bacterial disease with a high incidence in Southeast Asia. People usually become infected through exposure to water contaminated by the urine of infected animals, mainly rats and mice. In the framework of the CERoPath (1) program, IRD researchers and their partners (2) have revealed the relationship between rodents' environment and infection by leptospirosis bacteria. They showed that, whereas people mainly get infected in rice fields, the bacteria are present in a variety of environments, and particularly at the frontiers of fields and forests.

The use of remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has helped to expand knowledge on rodents' habitats. These studies allow a better understanding of their behaviour, depending on land use changes, and infection risks caused by human activities, including leisure.

Rodents are major reservoirs (3) of human pathogens such as Leptospira spp., the bacteria responsible for leptospirosis. This bacteria is transmitted to humans via the animals' urine, mainly through skin lesion in contact with contaminated water. The disease occurs in most parts of the world. The number of cases, which is estimated at 500,000 a year, is constantly growing. The rate is dramatically high in Southeast Asia, where it is considered as endemic (4).

In the framework of the CERoPath program, IRD researchers and their partners have demonstrated the links between rodents' environment, the climate, and leptospirosis infection.

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