Leptospirosis is a worldwide distributed zoonotic disease caused by pathogenic spirochetes of the genus Leptospira. The basic taxon of Leptospira is the serovar. Currently, nearly 300 serovars have been identified. Leptospirosis is particularly prevalent in warm and humid tropical regions where conditions for transmission and survival of pathogenic leptospires in the environment are optimal. Leptospirosis probably constitutes a serious veterinary and public health problem in Central America but solid figures are missing. To determine distribution of leptospirosis in Costa Rica and to identify locally circulating pathogenic serovars, we performed a sentinel-based study, isolating and characterizing leptospires from patients attending hospitals. Strain MAVJ 401 was isolated from a hospitalized patient in the Alajuela province. The isolate produced agglutination titers notably with reference rabbit antisera against serovars of serogroup Javanica but appeared serologically unique in the standard Cross Agglutinin Absorption Test. Therefore, MAVJ 401 was considered to represent a new serovar, designated Arenal, of the serogroup Javanica. Genotypic analysis revealed that strain MAVJ 401 belongs to Leptospira santarosai, a species that almost exclusively occurs in Latin America. This is not a unique finding of an exotic serovar. Recent isolates from severely ill patients in the same region appeared to be identical to Arenal. We have identified a novel highly virulent serovar from a patient in Costa Rica that is common in this area, thus posing a threat for the local public and veterinary health. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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