Certain bacteria cause leptospirosis. It is spread from the urine of infected animals. The urine gets into water, soil, and plants. The bacteria gets into the body from direct contact through:

  • Cuts in the skin
  • The mouth, nose, and eyes
  • Drinking contaminated water

Risk Factors

Leptospirosis is found all over the world. It is most common in tropical places.

The risk is higher for those who have contact with:

  • Infected animals
  • Contaminated soil or water, such as with:
    • Farming
    • Sewer work
    • Working in the military
    • Mining
    • Swimming or wading
    • Boating, canoeing, or kayaking
    • Camping



Some people do not have symptoms of leptospirosis. Those who do may have:

  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Belly pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Red eyes
  • Rash
  • Dry cough
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes

Rarely, it can lead to problems with the lungs and kidneys.


The doctor will ask about symptoms, past health, and travel history. A physical exam will be done.

Tests will be done to look for signs of infection, such as:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine studies
  • Lumbar puncture to check the fluid around the brain and spine
  • Treatments


    Leptospirosis is treated with antibiotics. People with severe symptoms may need IV antibiotics and hospital care.


    The risk of leptospirosis may be lowered by avoiding soil, plants, and water that may be contaminated with animal urine. Protective clothing or footwear should also be worn in these settings.

    This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

    Edits to original content made by Denver Health.