Wednesday June 26, 2019

Study: Fever, chills, And Muscle Pain Could Be Signs Of Leptospirosis

Fever, chills, and muscle pain aren’t the symptoms just of malaria

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A herdsman walks his cattle as they graze in Naivasha, Kenya, Feb. 15, 2018.
A herdsman walks his cattle as they graze in Naivasha, Kenya, Feb. 15, 2018. VOA

Fever, chills, and muscle pain aren’t the symptoms just of malaria. They could be signs of leptospirosis, which infects millions of people each year — primarily in tropical regions.

The under-reported disease is usually spread though contact with rodents, but a new study finds this trend may not hold in northern Tanzania or beyond.

Research in Asia has tied living in close quarters with rats to outbreaks of leptospirosis. The bacterial infection causes symptoms that are often mistaken for malaria. Severe cases can be life-threatening, says Professor Albert Ko at the Yale School of Public Health.

“Our group has done global burden of disease studies on this and there are over a million a cases a year and roughly 60 thousand deaths,” said Ko.

Common source of fevers

Leptospirosis is becoming recognized as a common source of fevers in Africa. But the source of the disease was unclear. It could be rats, or it could be something else, said Michael Maze, of the University of Otago.

“Well, we know that leptospirosis has many possible animal hosts,” said Maze. “I guess the story starts when we identified how common leptospirosis was the cause of severe fever in people coming to the hospital in northern Tanzania.”

Maze and an international team of researchers asked those patients about their lifestyles: how many rats they saw around their home… whether they owned livestock and if so, what kind?

They also tested blood samples for leptospirosis infections. Of the nearly 900 people tested, almost a third were infected, or had been.

The researchers also trapped almost 400 rats in nearby villages. They tested the rodents to see if they carried the leptospira bacterium like their Asian cousins. They did not.

But cattle did — they found over seven percent of them carried up to four types of leptospira that could potentially infect humans. Goats and sheep did, too, though less often.

cow
cow, Pixabay

Blood samples match

This result matched the findings from the patients’ blood samples. People who owned livestock were most likely to have leptospirosis infections, especially cattle owners.

“Leptospirosis is carried in the renal tract — so the kidney and the bladder — and comes out in the urine of infected animals,” said Maze. “So even simple things like avoiding urine while doing activities such as, for example, milking cattle would be a good first step.”

Maze recommends abattoir workers and dairy farmers wear gloves and other protective clothing.

“A cow is much bigger and it produces a much larger volume of urine and so that creates a greater opportunity for exposure,” said Maze.

But Maze and colleagues found doctors did not diagnose a single one of the patients in the study with leptospirosis. In fact, one in four active cases was misdiagnosed as malaria — even though the patients’ blood tested negative for parasites.

Symptoms similar

Maze says one reason is because symptoms of the two diseases are similar and there is not an accurate, simple test for leptospirosis that can be run in regional hospitals.

“The second reason is that clinician awareness of these diseases is low,” said Maze. “If you don’t recognize them it becomes a cycle where they’re never diagnosed so you never recognize them.”

Yale’s Albert Ko says the work Maze and his colleagues have done provides a better understanding of how leptospirosis spreads.

Also read: The outbreak of Leptospirosis with monsoon: Symptoms and precautions

“This is an important study specifically because it provides key information on risk factors in a high burden setting, said Ko. “In specifically among this at-risk population of vulnerable pastoralist society.” (VOA)

Next Story

WHO Certifies Argentina and Algeria as Malaria-Free Countries

WHO says Algeria's and Argentina's unwavering commitment, perseverance and success in combating malaria should serve as a model for other countries

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FILE - A worker of sprays the walls of a house with insecticide against mosquitoes, in Ghana, May 2, 2018. VOA

The World Health Organization has certified Algeria and Argentina as malaria-free, following three consecutive years where no new cases of the deadly disease have been reported.

The malaria parasite, which kills more than 400,000 people each year, was discovered in Algeria in 1880. Most of the victims are children under the age of five in Africa.

The World Health Organization reports Algeria is the second country in Africa to be recognized as malaria-free after Mauritius, which was certified in 1973. Argentina is the second country in South America, after Paraguay, to be declared malaria-free.

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FILE – Two children stricken with malaria rest at the local hospital in the small village of Walikale, Congo. VOA

A combination of many factors has made the achievements possible, according to WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib.

“It is very good news for Algeria and Argentina, but also for the two continents and globally also,” Chaib told VOA. “It means that malaria can be beaten. But the efforts should continue because we need also to enhance surveillance to be able to detect if any cases of malaria are still present in the country.”

WHO says the two countries eliminated malaria by employing a number of basic, well-proven measures, including insecticide-treated mosquito nets. It says both countries improved surveillance, which enabled them to rapidly identify and treat new cases of malaria. In addition, the two countries provided free diagnosis and treatment within their borders.

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World Health Organization reports Algeria is the second country in Africa to be recognized as malaria-free after Mauritius. Wikimedia Commons

In the case of Argentina, WHO says cross-border collaboration with its neighbor Bolivia was critical in combating the disease. It says both countries teamed up to spray more than 22,000 homes in border areas and to conduct widespread malaria testing.

ALSO READ: East African Countries Set to Ban Skin-Lightening Products Containing Hydroquinone

WHO says Algeria’s and Argentina’s unwavering commitment, perseverance and success in combating malaria should serve as a model for other countries.

Both Algeria and Argentina have succeeded in ridding themselves of the deadly malaria parasite without the benefit of a vaccine. Health officials are hopeful this task becomes easier with the recent rollout of the first promising malaria vaccine in Ghana and Malawi. (VOA)