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Weill Cornell science briefs May 2008
Date:5/14/2008

ssion of leptospirosis, a life-threatening disease caused by the bacterium Leptospira. Over a half-million people are infected, killing 1 in 10, each year. The disease, which is characterized by fever, abdominal pain, and can lead to severe pulmonary bleeding, kidney damage and meningitis, is transmitted through animal contact (commonly rat urine).

Dr. Albert Ko, senior author of the study and physician-scientist from the Division of International Medicine and Infectious Disease at Weill Cornell Medical College, and his research team stationed at Oswaldo Cruz Foundation/Brazilian Ministry of Health in the city of Salvador, tested a group of 3,171 slum residents for Leptospira antibodies a marker of past infection with the bacterium.

The researchers identified several variables that raised the risk of infection within those who tested positive for past infection, including persons living at the bottom of valleys (raising flood risk), those around open sewers or near accumulated refuse, and those who saw rats or lived in the presence of chickens. The scientists also determined that socio-economic factors contributed to risk: an increase of only $1 (USD) per day in per capita household income was associated with a substantial 11 percent decrease in infection risk. The researchers believe that improving sanitation can greatly curb the rate of infection. The study is published in a recent issue of PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.


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Contact: Andrew Klein
ank2017@med.cornell.edu
212-821-0560
New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center/Weill Cornell Medical College
Source:Eurekalert

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