Circulating serovars of Leptospira in cart horses of central and southern Ethiopia and associated risk factors.Prev Vet Med 2016; 125:106-15PV
Little work has been done on diseases of horses in Ethiopia or tropical regions of the world. Yet, Ethiopia has the largest horse population in Africa and their horses play a pivotal role in their economy as traction animals. A serological and questionnaire survey was therefore conducted to determine the circulating serovars of Leptospira and their association with potential risk factors in the cart horse population of Central and Southern Ethiopia. A total of 184 out of 418 cart horses from 13 districts had antibody titres of 1:100 or greater to at least one of 16 serovars of Leptospira species in Central and Southern Ethiopian horses. A significantly higher seropositivity (62.1%) was noted in horses from the highland agroecology followed by midland (44.4%) and lowland (39.8%). Serovar Bratislava (34.5%) was the predominant serovar followed by serovars Djasiman (9.8%), Topaz (5.98%) and Pomona (5.3%). Age and location proved to be associated with seropositive horses with older horses being more commonly affected and the districts of Ziway (Batu) (Apparent Prevalence (AP)=65.5%), Shashemene (AP=48.3%) and Sebeta (AP=41.4%) having the highest prevalence. Multivariable logistic regression found risk factors significantly associated with Leptospira seropositive horses were drinking river water (OR=2.8) and horses 7-12 years old (OR=5) and risk factors specifically associated with serovar Bratislava seropositive horses were drinking river water (OR=2.5), horses ≥13 years (OR=3.5) and the presence of dogs in adjacent neighbouring properties (OR=0.3). Dogs had a protective effect against seropositivity to serovars Bratislava and Djasiman, which may be due to their ability to control rodents. The high seroprevalence confirm that leptospirosis is endemic among horses of Central and Southern Ethiopia. The predominance of serovar Bratislava supports the idea that serovar Bratislava may be adapted to and maintained by the horse population of Central and Southern Ethiopia. This study emphasizes the need for further countrywide serological surveys and isolation of circulating leptospires in animals and humans in order to understand the role of horses in the epidemiology of this disease.