Molecular epidemiology of pathogenic Leptospira spp. in the straw-colored fruit bat (Eidolon helvum) migrating to Zambia from the Democratic Republic of Congo

Hirohito Ogawa, Nobuo Koizumi, Aiko Ohnuma, Alisheke Mutemwa, Bernard M. Hang'ombe, Aaron S. Mweene, Ayato Takada, Chihiro Sugimoto, Yasuhiko Suzuki, Hiroshi Kida, Hirofumi Sawa

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The role played by bats as a potential source of transmission of Leptospira spp. to humans is poorly understood, despite various pathogenic Leptospira spp. being identified in these mammals. Here, we investigated the prevalence and diversity of pathogenic Leptospira spp. that infect the straw-colored fruit bat (. Eidolon helvum). We captured this bat species, which is widely distributed in Africa, in Zambia during 2008-2013. We detected the flagellin B gene (. flaB) from pathogenic Leptospira spp. in kidney samples from 79 of 529 E. helvum (14.9%) bats. Phylogenetic analysis of 70 flaB fragments amplified from E. helvum samples and previously reported sequences, revealed that 12 of the fragments grouped with Leptospira borgpetersenii and Leptospira kirschneri; however, the remaining 58 flaB fragments appeared not to be associated with any reported species. Additionally, the 16S ribosomal RNA gene (. rrs) amplified from 27 randomly chosen flaB-positive samples was compared with previously reported sequences, including bat-derived Leptospira spp. All 27 rrs fragments clustered into a pathogenic group. Eight fragments were located in unique branches, the other 19 fragments were closely related to Leptospira spp. detected in bats. These results show that rrs sequences in bats are genetically related to each other without regional variation, suggesting that Leptospira are evolutionarily well-adapted to bats and have uniquely evolved in the bat population. Our study indicates that pathogenic Leptospira spp. in E. helvum in Zambia have unique genotypes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-147
Number of pages5
JournalInfection, Genetics and Evolution
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2015



  • Eidolon helvum
  • Fruit bat
  • Leptospira
  • Pathogenic
  • Zambia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases

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