Original Research

Comparison of polymerase chain reaction and Warthin-Starry techniques to detect Leptospira spp. in kidneys of slaughtered cattle

Shahrzad Azizi, Reza Kheirandish, Elham Rahimi
Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research | Vol 81, No 1 | a821 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ojvr.v81i1.821 | © 2014 Shahrzad Azizi, Reza Kheirandish, Elham Rahimi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0
Submitted: 03 June 2014 | Published: 12 November 2014

About the author(s)

Shahrzad Azizi, Department of Pathology, Shahid Bahonar University of Kerman, Iran, Islamic Republic of
Reza Kheirandish, Department of Pathology, Shahid Bahonar University of Kerman, Iran, Islamic Republic of
Elham Rahimi, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Shahid Bahonar University of Kerman, Iran, Islamic Republic of


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Abstract

Leptospirosis is a worldwide zoonotic disease that is caused by Gram-negative spirochaetes, Leptospira species. Affected animals excrete the organism in the urine into the environment and act as a source of infection. Cattle are maintenance hosts for some serovars of leptospirosis and are important in the transmission of the infection to humans. At post mortem examination, affected cattle show white spots in their kidneys but these are not specific for leptospirosis. Sometimes it is necessary that leptospirosis be diagnosed in the carcass. Different direct methods, including polymerase chain reaction (PCR), Warthin-Starry silver stain (WS), immunofluorescence (IF) and immunohistochemistry (IHC) can be used in order to diagnose leptospirosis in the affected tissues, such as kidney. The main advantage of the WS technique is direct visualisation of the bacteria in the tissue samples. Silver staining is useful for retrospective studies on formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded samples but little information is available on the sensitivity and specificity of the technique. The present study aimed to find a simple and inexpensive method that can be used in any laboratory and that also, if clinical samples are not available, can detect Leptospira in tissue samples post mortem. This study was performed on 19 paraffin-embedded kidneys of slaughtered cows that grossly had focal to multifocal white spots. Leptospirosis was confirmed in these samples with PCR based on the LipL32 gene. Out of 19 PCR positive kidneys, Leptospira was identified in 13 stained samples by WS. The kidneys revealed different grades of interstitial nephritis. No relationship was found between severity of lesions and presence of leptospires in the kidneys. The PCR results on the urine and blood were consistent with matching WS stained kidneys. Out of 13 kidneys that were positive with silver staining, 7 matching blood and 10 matching urine samples were confirmed positive for leptospirosis with PCR. In this study, the WS technique provided fewer positive results than PCR. This may be as a result of a low burden of Leptospira in the kidney, but the sensitivity of WS staining needs more investigation.

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