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Abstract

Introduction:

Human leptospirosis is a global zoonotic infection with a characteristic biphasic illness and protean clinical manifestations. The majority are mild flu‐like infections. The severe forms cause multiorgan damage with a greater predilection to hepatorenal failure.

Case presentation:

We attempted to analyse the clinical presentation of severe leptospirosis and decipher the clinical spectrum within this group by reviewing a series of 15 patients with leptospirosis requiring intensive care support for their management. We noticed complications becoming apparent before antibodies became detectable in the blood in a significant number of patients. This appears to belie the biphasic nature of leptospirosis and raises the question of whether the complications occur during the leptospiraemic phase or the immune phase of the infection. The presence of leptospiral DNA in the blood at this time as detected by a molecular assay strengthened this suspicion. Among the 15 patients with severe leptospirosis, only 3 (20 %) had an overseas travel history and the remaining 12 patients acquired their infection within the UK. Fourteen of the 15 patients had hepatorenal dysfunction, with seven requiring dialysis. Eight of the 15 patients received intravenous ceftriaxone with very good outcomes. Three showed significant clinical improvement after the administration of steroids.

Conclusion:

Many patients with severe leptospirosis will have complications on presentation. Molecular testing is now available for early diagnosis, facilitating early interventions. Ceftriaxone has been effective in treating severe leptospirosis. This study reminds clinicians to consider leptospirosis in the differential diagnosis of similar clinical spectra and offers tools for appropriate management.

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2014-12-01
2019-12-05
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