Malagasy bats shelter a considerable genetic diversity of pathogenic Leptospira suggesting notable host-specificity patterns


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March 2016


Pathogenic Leptospira are the causative agents of leptospirosis, a disease of global concern with major impact in tropical regions. Despite the importance of this zoonosis for human health, the evolutionary and ecological drivers shaping bacterial communities in host reservoirs remain poorly investigated. Here, we describe Leptospira communities hosted by Malagasy bats, composed of mostly endemic species, in order to characterize host–pathogen associations and investigate their evolutionary histories. We screened 947 individual bats (representing 31 species, 18 genera and seven families) for Leptospira infection and subsequently genotyped positive samples using three different bacterial loci. Molecular identification showed that these Leptospira are notably diverse and include several distinct lineages mostly belonging to Leptospira borgpetersenii and L. kirschneri. The exploration of the most probable host-pathogen evolutionary scenarios suggests that bacterial genetic diversity results from a combination of events related to the ecology and the evolutionary history of their hosts. Importantly, based on the data set presented herein, the notable host-specificity we have uncovered, together with a lack of geographical structuration of bacterial genetic diversity, indicates that the Leptospira community at a given site depends on the co-occurring bat species assemblage. The implications of such tight host-specificity on the epidemiology of leptospirosis are discussed.


Leptospira, Chiroptera, Madagascar, Host-Parasite Association, Host-Specificity, Co-Phylogeny

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FEMS Microbiology Ecology, Vol. 92, no. 4 (2016-03-11).