The detection of Burkholderia spp. and pathogenic Leptospira spp. in South Africa

Saif, Adrienne N.
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Leptospirosis is a zoonosis of ubiquitous distribution and causes a wide spectrum of disease. Burkholderia species are important plant and human pathogens. Little or no investigation has been performed on any clinically-relevant Burkholderia or Leptospira species in Johannesburg. Environmental samples were taken from different sites in Johannesburg along the Jukskei River. These were subjected to culturing for Burkholderia spp. and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for Burkholderia and Leptospira spp. Human serum, animal serum and kidney samples were also subjected to PCR for both organisms. A Leptospira IgM ELISA was also performed on human serum samples. More Burkholderia spp. were isolated by culture from soil samples than water samples. The PCR yielded a significantly higher PCR positive from soil samples (p = 0.015). There was a high prevalence of pathogenic Leptospira spp. in soil samples. The ELISA yielded only 7.8% (26/332) positive samples. There were no human or animal positive PCR results for either organism. There is an environmental presence of both leptospires and Burkholderia in the area sampled. More studies are needed to establish how both organisms might affect patients with compromised immune systems, and how often both infections are incorrectly or under-diagnosed.