Clinical and Imaging Manifestations of Hemorrhagic Pulmonary Leptospirosis: A State-of-the-Art Review

Marchiori, Edson; Lourenço, Sílvia; Setúbal, Sérgio; Zanetti, Gláucia; Gasparetto, Taisa Davaus; Hochhegger, Bruno
February 2011
Lung;Feb2011, Vol. 189 Issue 1, p1
Academic Journal
Leptospirosis, a spirochetal zoonosis, is frequently unrecognized due to its manifestation as an undifferentiated fever. It is an emerging infectious disease that has changed from an occupational disease of veterinarians, farmers, butchers, and other animal handlers to a cause of epidemics in poor and decayed urban communities in developing countries. Humans are infected when mucous membranes or abraded skin come into direct contact with the urine of infected animals, especially rats and dogs. Mortality from severe leptospirosis is high, even when optimal treatment is provided. The diagnosis of leptospirosis is based on clinical findings, history of direct or indirect exposure to infected animals in endemic areas, and positive serological tests. It should be considered in the differential diagnosis of patients with febrile illnesses associated with pneumonitis and respiratory failure, especially when hemoptysis is present. Severe pulmonary involvement in leptospirosis consists primarily of hemorrhagic pneumonitis. In advanced cases, adult respiratory distress syndrome and massive pulmonary hemorrhage may occur. Chest radiographs show bilateral alveolar infiltrates and/or resemble viral pneumonia, bronchopneumonia, tuberculosis, adult respiratory distress syndrome, and other causes of pulmonary hemorrhage such as Goodpasture syndrome. High-resolution computed tomography scans may show nodular infiltrates, areas of consolidation, ground-glass attenuation, and crazy-paving patterns. Bronchoalveolar lavage and autopsy studies have suggested that ground-glass opacities and air-space consolidations are secondary to pulmonary hemorrhage. Although not specific, the presence of these computed tomography findings in a febrile patient with an appropriate history should suggest a diagnosis of leptospirosis.


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