Occupational leptospirosis in New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Massey University, Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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Although a decreasing trend of human notifications was observed from 2001 to 2014 (Chapter 1), the incidence of human leptospirosis in New Zealand continues to be higher than in other high-income countries and affecting predominately people occupationally exposed to livestock (i.e. abattoir workers and farmers). Additionally, evidence suggests that leptospirosis may have a higher detrimental effect on production in deer compared with beef cattle or sheep. It was also observed that vaccination against Leptospira of not previously infected animals reduce the risk of urinary shedding of leptospires after challenge, and that there is limited evidence supporting or disproving that maternally derived antibodies interfere with the effect of vaccination when animals are vaccinated at a young age. When sero-positivity was defined as a serum microscopic agglutination test (MAT) titre of ≥48, 6.6% of farmers (Chapter 2) and 5.1% of veterinarians (Chapter 3) were sero-positive to at least one of five Leptospira serovars (Hardjo-bovis, Pomona, Copenhageni, Ballum, Tarassovi). Veterinarians had a higher risk of being seropositive when they slaughtered cattle or pigs at home or worked in a mixed animal practice. Assisting calving of cattle or deer, farming deer alone or in combination with cattle and/or sheep, flat terrain on farm, and abundance of wild deer on farm, increased Leptospira sero-positivity of farmers. Apart from vaccinating farmed livestock, increased awareness of such risk factors and the use of protective equipment may reduce the human leptospirosis incidence in these occupational groups. Similar to earlier observations in abattoir workers, Leptospira sero-prevalence of farmers and veterinarians was associated with the recall of influenza-like illness of sampled individuals. Using the estimated incidence of influenza-like illness attributable to Leptospira infection (population attributable risk) of veterinarians (0.05%), farmers (1.3%) and abattoir workers (2.7%), we quantified the burden of human leptospirosis in terms of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) and economic cost of infection; the latter including the cost of vaccination, which is primarily used in dairy cattle (Chapter 4). Annual DALYs were estimated to be 0.43 per 100,000 people in New Zealand, and 16.76 per 100,000 people when only considering the occupationally-exposed population (abattoir workers, farmers, veterinarians). This ranks leptospirosis in New Zealand’s high-risk population similar to worldwide estimates of DALYs for rabies and dengue. The total annual cost of leptospirosis due to human disease (i.e. treatment and absence from work); production loss in deer, beef cattle, and sheep; and the cost for vaccinating them was estimated to be NZ$25.36 million. One third of this total was attributed to vaccination of dairy cattle. The annual cost of human treatment and workplace absence due to severe and mild leptospirosis was NZ$4.49 million. Total lost production cost was NZ$11.31 million, half of which was attributable to reproductive and growth reduction in deer. No estimates are currently available from any other country for the public health burden and the overall economic loss including farmed livestock for this disease. Since vaccination of livestock is currently regarded as the most effective means of preventing human exposure, the literature on the efficacy of Leptospira vaccines for preventing urinary shedding was systematically reviewed (Chapter 5). The metaanalysis of vaccination trial results, using articles with sufficiently detailed data, resulted in a pooled vaccine efficacy estimate of 82% when shedding was assessed by culture. The findings of this thesis contribute towards a better understanding of the public health burden, economic cost, infection sources for humans, and the efficacy of vaccination for reducing the risk of Leptospira urinary shedding in domestic livestock
Leptospirosis, Epidemiology, Veterinarians, Abattoir workers, Farmers, New Zealand, Leptospira sero-prevalence, Research Subject Categories::MEDICINE::Social medicine::Public health medicine research areas